Beta-Caro-Greens - Juice Recipe

This juice features carrots, beets, celery and spinach. Previously, I've talked about the benefits of spinach (see smoothie recipe), so only I'll talk a bit now about the other ingredients in this juice. 

Celery is a natural diuretic and a great source of natural sodium. Some even claim that celery is an appetite suppressant, as this low calorie vegetable is often included as a "free for all" food in various diet programs.  

Carrots, as I'm sure you've heard, are known for their abundance of beta-carotene, a vitamin well-known for it's ability to protect our eyesight. Beta-carotene is also an anti-oxidant, thought to be helpful in ridding the body of cancer-causing free radicals.

Beets contain folic acid, essential during pregnancy to help prevent fetal birth defects. In addition, some preliminary studies have shown that the amino acid betaine, present in beet root, can help prevent certain types of cancer, e.g., colon cancer. There is also anecdotal evidence that beets, combined with carrots, are helpful in the treatment of gout, as well as liver and kidney disorders. Regular intake of beets is also said to aid in the lowering of high cholesterol and high blood pressure. One study even found that blood pressure was reduced only one hour after consuming beet juice, while another found that consuming beetroot juice increases stamina while exercising.

The carrots in this juice are quite sweet,  but most people find that they need something sweet to counteract the earthiness of raw beets.  So, if you've never had beet juice before, start off with just a bit (say 1/4 of a beet) and work your way up until you get used to the flavor (which I find quite pleasing). The vibrant, dark red color of this juice is both visually and gastronomically pleasing. It feels great to feed myself something so full of vitamins and minerals and even better, I always feel nice and energized after drinking some. Enjoy!

Beta-Caro-Greens Juice

6 large carrots
1/4 to 1/2 of medium beet
1/2 cup spinach
3 sticks of celery
1/2 cup water

Process all veg through a juicer (I used my Champion), mix in water and serve!


VitaMix - Product Review

So, this post was supposed to go out last week, but I guess being a PhD student and trying to manage a five-post a week blog was a bit overly ambitious on my part. So, sigh, realizing I am not superwoman, I'm scaling back the ambition, and have concluded that a 3 - 5 posts per week goal is probably more doable.

Well, on to the review...As I mentioned about a week ago, I partnered up with VitaMix and became an affiliate. I generally am annoyed by kitchen gadgets because they are used infrequently and take up valuable counter-top real estate. However, I gladly give the VitaMix blender center stage in my kitchen. I use it so much that it never, ever gets put away. In fact, I easily use it 2 or 3 times every day. Here's a run-down of what I personally use it for:
  • homemade cashew butter
  • instant ice cream and sorbet
  • soups - both Raw & Cooked
  • smoothies & juices
  • vegan cheeses
  • whipped cream
  • grinding coffee beans
  • grinding flax seeds
  • homemade salad dressings
  • marinara sauce
  • pesto sauce
  • homemade hummus
  • grinding grains for homemade flour - e.g., oat groats and barley or other gluten free goodies

Me being a super thrifty (cheap) saver, I have to be honest about the price though. This machine is high end, but it's one of the few big buys I've made that I feel is worth every single penny.

Before my husband and I made the decision to buy this machine - we watched nearly all of their quick (and strangely entertaining) "52 food feats" videos - which give short demonstrations of how to make all sorts of culinary creations using the VitaMix. What got my husband most excited about this machine is the fact that you can cook scrambled eggs in it (strange, but true). It can cook all manner of things, as you can go from room temperature ingredients to steaming, hot deliciousness (e.g., soup) in just a few minutes. What sold me, however, was the ease with which it could make my beloved green smoothies and the super easy clean up of the caraffe. With just a drop of dish soap, a bit of warm water, and a flick of the on switch, the VitaMix basically cleans itself..which is, um...awesome!

A Few Details:

The VitaMix has a 64 oz container with a 2 horsepower motor (apparently this is enough to power a small lawnmower). According to my research, most blenders you'll find, at say Target or Walmart, have motors of 300-700 watts. With 745 watts equaling 1 horsepower, and remember, the VitaMix has 2, that's a major difference in power. Further, most of your standard blenders have warranties lasting only a few months to one year. The VitaMix Standard Warranty is 7 years; and if you're so inclined, you can extend it to 10. This blend-o-wonderful also comes with an instructional dvd, a quick start recipe pamphlet, and a huge, colorful binder full of recipes and ideas.

If you think your kitchen can do with a bit of this amazingness, you can check out the VitaMix (in all it's splendor) by clicking here. You can also order one (and get Free Shipping) by clicking my magical VitaMix affiliate logo on the right side of this page. : )


"Vegetarian, Vegan, Flexitarian - What's the Big Deal?"

This post is all about the Vegetarian, Vegan, and so-called, "Flexitarian" diets. I basically want to define what these three diets encompass and then give my take on them. I know there are some who will never be appealed to via the animal rights argument, so I will mostly be approaching these diets from the "they're healthy for you" standpoint. But first, a word from The American Dietetic Association (ADA), from Science Daily,

"Vegetarian diets are often associated with health advantages including lower blood cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure levels and lower risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes...Vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index [this means less fat!] and lower overall cancer rates. Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and have higher levels of dietary fiber, magnesium and potassium, vitamins C and E, folate, carotenoids, flavonoids and other phytochemicals. These nutritional differences may explain some of the health advantages of those following a varied, balanced vegetarian diet."


Vegetarians exist solely on plant based food - hence the "vege" stem, indicating vegetables or vegetation. (So, if you don't eat red meat but still eat things like fish and chicken, no you are not a vegetarian.)  Some of you may know that I used to be vegetarian. In fact, I was vegetarian for 9 years, starting in my teens and ending about two years after I got married. Back then, I was highly inflexible, and could not stand to touch, smell, see, let alone taste meat. Inflexibility aside, and contrary to popular opinion about vegetarians, I did not have a problem getting protein. In fact, I often had more protein than was nutritionally necessary, easily surpassing the recommended daily amount. So how do vegetarians get their protein if they don't eat meat? Well, many vegetarians eat eggs, dairy (cheese, milk, yogurt, etc.,) or both. Nuts and seeds (in moderation) are also an excellent way to obtain protein. Then there's the ever prevalent soy on the vegetarian’s menu. Without exaggerating, there are probably millions of ways to cook with soy products. There are plain soy beans, soy milk, tofu, tempeh, tvp, and surely lots more I've never heard of. Then there are beans and some grains (quinoa) which have protein. Even greens, yes GREENS, can be good sources of protein. So, with a little imagination, creativity, and practice, one can easily live, thrive and, perhaps more importantly, eat delicious foods on the vegetarian diet.


Veganism is basically a stricter form of vegetarianism. Vegans go a step further and eliminate all animal products from their diet. This means no eggs or dairy (bye, bye, cheese!). Some vegans even say no to honey, since it comes from bees, a living creature. Veganism is truly a lifestyle and many also take care to avoid cosmetics and clothing that use animal ingredients. For those who are interested in including more fresh fruits and vegetables, (and therefore less meat), in their diets, jumping into veganism may be hard to do because it is so restrictive. It is not impossible, however, and many achieve great success on this diet. Though some vegans do find that they need to take B12 to supplement what they’re not getting in their food. Personally, when I was a vegetarian, I experienced intermittent bouts of lactose intolerance and have therefore dabbled in veganism; but, despite the stomach cramps, it's always the cheese that stopped me from going all the way to the vegan camp. So, although I do not know if I will ever be vegan again, I do love experimenting with vegan foods and I plan to have lots of vegan recipes featured on this site.


The term flexitarian is somewhat new, not widely accepted, and is sometimes even derided by members of the vegan/vegetarian camp. A self-described flexitarian is usually someone who eats a primarily vegetarian diet, but occasionally eats some form of meat. Flexitarians are often somewhat conscious of where their food comes from and have ethical or dietary concerns for why they choose to eat a mostly plant-based diet. The key with flexitarians is, well, flexibility. A flexitarian may go weeks on end eating a completely plant-based diet, but may occasionally eat a meat-based meal if a well-intentioned loved one prepares it for them.
Although I am not completely sold on the term flexitarianism, I think this way of eating has merit – especially for those who are completely against strictly vegetarian/vegan diets.

For better or worse, many people are disinterested in the rigid dogma that many vegans and vegetarians espouse (I know, I used to be one of them). Further, many who might be swayed or interested in learning about animal rights or healthier, (mostly) meatless eating become turned off when those who care so much for the humane treatment of animals have not yet managed to treat their fellow humans with much humanity. This, for me, is a problem. It is my personal belief that eating a vegetarian diet is the most ethical choice, but we all have to arrive at this choice on our own, as conscious individuals. It is not my place to cast judgment on those who do not choose the vegetarian path. No one deserves to be berated for that choice. Further, I do not know if I will be vegetarian forever. I’ve only been back on the vegetarian diet for about 2 months now. It hasn’t been hard, but I’m still just taking it one day at a time, doing my best to lose a few pounds and improve my overall well-being.

On a final note, I will say that we should all have a goal of increasing the amount of healthy fruits and vegetables in our diets, whether we continue to eat meat or not. Most of us just don’t eat enough veg. So if you are someone who is interested in becoming vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian, you don’t have to magically transform over night. Though if you are an all or nothing type – go for it! Otherwise, start small by decreasing the size of your meat serving and increasing the size of your vegetable portions. Then, go one day a week without meat; then go two, three or more. It’s OK to take baby steps. Just give it a try and see how it goes. Your health will thank you!

Peace and Greens, from the Diary of a Smart Black Woman


Oven Fried Barbecue Tempeh Strips

There are a few buffalo tempeh wing recipes swirling around the internet. Although I like buffalo chicken wings, I like the spicy barbecue version better - though, I like pretty much everything covered in barbecue sauce. And since my husband and I are embarking on this vegetarian kick, the wing part was obviously out of the question. All the buffalo tempeh recipes I found called for boiling the tempeh before coating and baking it. I've never done this before, and figured I'd give it a try. In hindsight, I wish I'd just skipped the boiling and marinated the tempeh like I always do...

That being said, my husband LOVED this dish. Me? I didn't love it the first day, but due to the strange, mysterious science of leftovers, I loved it the second day. Thus, the mixed results/reviews made me wonder whether or not to even post this recipe. The hubster, however, thinks he should have a say in what goes on my blog - especially if it's a dish that he really liked. So I decided to concede rather than scrapping the post altogether.

If I did this over again, I would marinate the tempeh a few hours before coating it in the breading so that the flavor seeps in. Better still, I've made marinated barbecue tempeh in the oven before without the breading, and loved it everytime - I might just do that again and save on some calories. Well, here goes...

Oven Fried Barbecue Tempeh Strips

1 Package Tempeh (any variety)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup water
2 Tbs hot sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp italian seasoning
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp parsley
1 cup panko (japanese-style) bread crumbs (asian markets or whole foods should have this)
3/4 cup barbecue sauce (whatever brand you like)
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and Grease sheet pan. Cut tempeh into strips. Bring Saucepan of water to boil. Boil tempeh for 10 minutes. Drain in collander and set aside.

Prepare batter: Wisk flour, 1/4 cup water, and hot sauce in medium size bowl. Stir in herbs and seasonings.

Place panko bread crumbs on plate or in pie dish.

In assembly line fashion, dip a piece of tempeh in batter, then roll in bread crumbs and place on greased sheet pan. Continue process until all pieces are covered.

Bake in oven 20 minutes. Turn pieces over and bake 20 more minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, heat barbecue sauce and 1/4 cup water on stove top over medium heat. Once tempeh has baked for forty minutes, remove from oven, toss in warm barbecue sauce and serve!


Choco-Berry Smoothie - Recipe

Speaking of smoothies for dessert, here is a creamy, cool treat that's guaranteed to satisfy your cravings for both sweet and chocolate. Normally, my chocolate smoothies have a lot of "crazy" specialty ingredients like maca (purported to balance hormones), spirulina (a vitamin and oxygen rich blue-green algae) and/or low-glycemic, plant-based sweeteners. This smoothie, however, is the most basic of the chocolate smoothies I make at home - and it includes ingredients that anyone should be able to find (or already have on hand). Don't be scared off by the combination of chocolate and spinach. The spinach adds a kick of vitamins, without a bitter taste, and honestly, you can't taste the spinach in it at all. 

So, if you're not above sneaking healthy things into people's food, this smoothie recipe is a great one to try - and, if your loved ones are down with trying something new (assuming most people don't pair chocolate and spinach), all the better!

For those who don't know me, you should know that I'm my own biggest food critic, so believe me when I say - this one is me approved - It's oh so good.

Choco-Berry Smoothie

Method (makes one large or two small servings)

1 cup non-dairy milk (soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, etc.)
1 banana
1/2 cup baby spinach, packed
2 Tbs cocoa powder (or raw, cacao powder)
1/4 tsp vanilla (extract or powder)
1/2 cup frozen berries - I usually go for cherry or cranberry
6 pieces of ice
 - optional  - add 1 tsp honey or agave nectar if your berries are tart

Place ingredients in blender in order listed. Blend and serve.

I hope you enjoy this, another great smoothie recipe, from the Diary of a Smart Black Woman. If you tried & liked this recipe, I'd love to hear about it. I'd also like comments/suggestions if you did something different. Either way, sound off in the comments section below!


The Lowdown on Juices & Smoothies

Smoothies have been all the rage the past few years, with most towns having at least one smoothie joint around. Juices, and the illustrious juice bar, however, have failed to break into the mainstream. Both of these wonder beverages have their benefits, though, so I figured I’d talk a little about smoothies, a lot about juices, and a bit about what makes them different.


First, let me make it clear that when I talk about juices, I’m talking about freshly extracted fruit and vegetable juices – not the kind you get in bottles at the market. Most juices in the supermarket are laden with sugar and usually have some type of preservative so that they will stay shelf-stable for months on end. A few of these have vegetables, but the star of most of these juice beverages is the sugariest of fruits, or worse – corn syrup (Don’t let those “it’s just a vegetable” corn syrup commercials fool you – that stuff’s no good!).

The process of juicing (see juicer review here) removes the fibers of the fruit/veg. When the fibers are gone, this reduces the amount of time and energy the body has to spend digesting, thus enabling you to quickly assimilate all of the nutrients you're trying to get. There is even evidence to suggest that juicing is especially beneficial if you are trying to heal from disease. There are a lot of juicing books on the market; if you're seriously interested in juicing, you should definitely check some out. One of the first such books I ever owned is "Juicing For Life," by Calbom & Keane. It's great because they detail specific nutrients said to aid in the healing of scores of ailments (from Allergies to Water Retention); and they also provide a list of the foods and some juice recipes which contain the target, healing nutrients.

Why is fresh better than bottled? First, fresh juice tastes so much better. Second, the moment you extract juice from a plant’s fibers, they begin to oxidize; oxidation causes many of the vital nutrients to be lost. That’s why it’s best to drink fruit and vegetable juices right away – and if you can’t, it’s best to store your juice in an air-tight glass container in the fridge (mason jars are awesome for prolonging the life of your juice).

Why do I drink Juice? Like many people out there, I don't really care for taking vitamins (or most pills for that matter). What's more, when I do need to take some sort of pill - I usually forget. So, juicing makes me feel A-OK about not taking my multi-vites, because Fruit and Vegetable Juices contain concentrated amounts of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes - and are basically like taking a power-house of a liquid supplement.


Unlike juices, smoothies contain the fibers of the plant matter; and as we all have heard, fiber makes you feel full, which is why many people successfully use smoothies as a meal replacement! Since the fiber is present, the body has to spend more time and energy digesting. This makes smoothies a good go-to beverage when you require more and longer-lasting energy. Plus, if you are someone who likes a lot of fruit in your smoothies, the fiber helps slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream, fending off sugar crashes later.

What about smoothie-chain smoothies? I must admit, I have had my fair share of these drinks in the past. Most of them, however, are not very healthy and are basically dessert in a cup – high in fat, too much dairy, and a sinful amount of sugar. While I’m not 100% opposed to these (we have to live a little, right?), there are so many more healthful smoothies to be had. Most of us are used to really creamy smoothies with some type of dairy, but there are some really amazing-tasting smoothies made with just fruit, vegetables and water. Though, if you must have a milky, dessert-type smoothie, there are lots of ways to make them a little better for you. For instance, you can add greens (such as in a chocolate and spinach smoothie– sounds odd, but tastes delicious); you can add flax, hemp, or coconut oils, for healthy omega fats; you can add Superfoods, such as spirulina, bee pollen, or maca; and you can try replacing mucus-forming cow’s milk with rice milk, soy milk, almond milk or oat milk.

The Long and Short of my Juices vs. Smoothies rant. When possible, I like to have one juice and one smoothie everyday. I like juice because I can cram in more vegetable matter (and thus vitamins!) than I can possibly eat on a plate or blend in a smoothie. My juices generally have very little sweetness to them because I do not want to jar my system with a jolt of liquid, fiber-less sugar. On the other hand, I generally like to have my smoothies somewhat sweet because they have fiber, are filling, and they usually satisfy my need to have cake (mmm, cake) or other bad-for-me desserts.

So, if you’re looking for something sweet and filling, smoothies are a great choice. However, if you are looking to acquire high concentrations of nutrients from a particular plant, then juices are the way to go.

If you decide to keep buying your juices and smoothies over-the-counter style, I hope you will at least consider making a few of the healthier versions at home. If you need inspiration, stay tuned, I’ll be offering up a new smoothie or juice recipe every week on the Diary of a Smart Black Woman!


Zesty Brussels Sprouts, with a trio of Feta, Pine Nuts & Currants - Recipe

UPDATE: I tried making this without the feta, pine nuts or currants. My sprouts were also the tiny, more tender kind. I found that I had to cook the smaller ones a full 15 minutes less than I did with the larger ones. Perhaps the longer, previous cooking time was also because everything cooled down when I took the pan out of the oven and added the other ingredients in the mix. FYI, even though I didn't add the nuts, cheese, etc., I still reserved some of the dressing to toss the sprouts in once they finished baking.

Like most of you out there, I grew up not liking Brussels sprouts. Though, I've recently developed a taste for these weird little cabbages. This recipe was inspired by a dish I had a few months ago at Zaytinyas, a (really too expensive) middle eastern tapas restaurant in D.C. Notwithstanding price, their food was delicious and their sprouts were amazing. I've been playing around with the B. sprouts ever since and now have a few sprout recipes up my sleeve. This version uses Greek style feta cheese - ya know, the standard feta you'll find at every grocery store in the U.S. A previous version I made used Turkish feta cheese. Greek feta is drier and crumblier, whereas Turkish feta is softer, smoother and creamier (mmmm). Most people aren't used to it, but I think this dish is sooo much tastier with the Turkish feta. In the end, I chose to go with the Greek feta because I wanted to make it more accessible to the people who don't have a Turkish market around. Plus, my husband, the Turk, liked this version just fine and I promised all of you (my lovely readers) and my friend Gwen that I'd deliver a Brussels Sprouts recipe. So, here ya go.

Zesty Brussels Sprouts, with a trio of Feta, Pine Nuts & Currants
Total cooking time: 40-45 minutes

1 pound Brussels Sprouts (try to get small or medium sized)

2 Tbs lemon juice (I used myer lemons which are sweeter than the traditional kind)
2 Tbs + 1 tsp Olive oil
2 tsp honey
1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley flakes

1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 tbs pines nuts
2 tbs currants, chopped roughly (can use raisins instead of currents - just chop then finer since they're bigger)
1.5 oz feta cheese, crumbled or cubed

Method: Preheat Oven to 400 degrees. Remove outer leaves and cut the base off of the Brussels Sprouts. Cut each sprout in half. If your sprouts are large (like mine were), cut them in quarters.

In a large bowl, whisk together: olive oil, lemon juice, honey, dijon mustard, garlic, salt and black pepper. Then mix in parsley and lemon zest. Reserve 2 tsp of this mixture in a small bowl.

Toss the sprouts with the mixture in the larger bowl.

In the second, smaller bowl, mix the currants and pine nuts with the reserved 2 tsp of mixture from above. Set aside.

Spread the sprouts on a baking pan and roast 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove pan from oven and mix in the currants and pine nuts. Continue baking for the last 10-15 minutes. Some parts of the sprouts will have blackened - this is supposed to happen in the roasting process.

Remove from oven. Immediately, but carefully, toss in feta cheese (you want it to soften, but not melt) and Serve!

Tip: If you want a vegan version of this - simply skip on the feta!

Well, I hope some of you try this (or a variation of this) recipe. Let me know if you do - I'd love to hear how yours turns out!


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Peace and Greens, from the Diary of a Smart Black Woman


    VitaMix Affiliate - Tell Your Friends ; )

    In the market for a VitaMix Blender?! I'm a new VitaMix Affiliate, and if you buy one through the link on my website you'll get FREE Shipping! FYI - The VitaMix is a super POWERFUL Blender that can do everything including: effortlessly creamy smoothies, whip cream, peanut/almond butter, baby food and more - it even heats foods!!! So you know, I will only link myself with products and companies that I actually use and trust, that's why I'm so excited to be working with VitaMix. Look for a thorough product review on this amazing gadget next week. You can order yours by clicking one of their logos to the right of this page. Thanks for supporting my blog: The Diary of a Smart Black Woman.

    PS: I can honestly say that I've owned my VitaMix for almost a year - and I use it every single day!!!

    Guava and Greens - Juice Recipe

    For newbies to green juices, I always suggest starting with spinach for the first week or so and then start adding some of the more "potent" greens to your veg juices. Spinach is great because it is mild-tasting and less bitter than some of the other good-for-you greens (like Kale, Collard, Chard, Dandelion). However, it's important to mix things up a bit. Not every fruit or veg comes equipped with the same type or amount of nutrients; and composition and color (including varying shades of green) are often indicators of the types of nutrients present in any given food. So, in the world of food and nutrition, variety is important to ensure your body gets a full spectrum of vitamins, minerals and enzymes.

    For this juice, there's still a bit of spinach in it, but I've mixed it with other greens to start acclimating your palate so you slowly get used to taking in more bitter greens (a post to come about why bitter greens are so beneficial). I've also included baby guavas, which are not super sweet, but the fragrance is so intoxicating, you feel like you're drinking a piece of heaven as it emanates from your juice.

    Guava and Greens Juice

    6 leaves collard greens, stems removed (about 1 1/2 cups packed)
    1/2 cup spinach
    1/2 cup broccoli (combo of stems and/or florets is fine) - optional
    2 celery stalks
    1/2 cup fennel, chopped
    3 baby guavas (or 1/2 large guava)
    1 apple
    1 green pear
    2 cups water

    Process all fruit and veg through your juicer. Mix in water and Enjoy! Alternately, you can mix all fruit/veg and water in a blender and then strain through cheese cloth to obtain your juice.

    (Tip 1): Fennel has a mild licorice taste. Although I'm not a huge fan of licorice-flavored things, fennel in juice really tastes amazing. Most of the real licorice flavor is in the fronds (the leafy stuff at the top), so if you want to avoid this flavor, leave the fronds out and just use the white bulb at the bottom.

    (Tip 2): Adding fruit is a great way to make greens taste better - especially if you're not used to drinking your greens. Though, I ALWAYS add some water to my juices whenever I add sweet fruits to them. I even do this with commercial juices. I think it is important to add water so your system is not getting such a concentrated jolt of sugar. Since I've added 2 sweet fruits, I've added a bit of extra water to this one. Don't worry, coming from someone who's a sweet-aholic, I think it still tastes pleasurably sweet.

    Peace, Greens, and & Happy St. Patrick's Day, 
    from the Diary of a Smart Black Woman


    Sweet Pea and Greens Soup - A Green-colored Recipe - Just in time for St. Patrick's Day

    I do not like a lot of Raw Food soups. For some reason, a lot of them just don't do it for me. However, this, by far, has become one of my favorite raw (or cooked) dishes, period. When I'm short on time and we're super hungry, this is one of my whip-it-up-real-quick meals. It's super easy and very filling.

    The bright green color of this soup might appear somewhat shocking at first, but hey, people seem to delight in ingesting all manner of shocking green things on St. Patty's day. So now seems like a perfect time to introduce my Sweet Pea and Greens soup. I was inspired to create this recipe several years ago when I tried a similar soup from "Real Simple" magazine. Theirs was a chilled sweet pea and watercress soup that included sour cream. I liked the soup, but I absolutely detest sour cream (lest it be on a chip); besides, I really wanted to make a vegan version of this. So I started making mine with plain soy milk. But then, I really wanted to make a Raw Food version of this. After lots of tinkering. I found that the fat from the oil gives it PLENTY of creaminess and the apple cider vinegar gives it an amazing cooked flavor, reminiscent of the cooked version that we're all so used to.

    While I like things green, I also felt it needed a bit more color contrast. So, I like to serve it with a corn relish that I came up with (recipe below).  This soup is also great with toasted pita crisps or Mexican spiced flax crackers (our favorite).

    Sweet Pea and Greens Soup

    3 cups frozen peas, thawed
    2 Tbs lemon juice
    2 Tbs olive oil
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 1/2 cups water
    1 cup Kale or Watercress - with stems removed
    1/4 tsp black pepper
    1/8 tsp raw apple cider vinegar
    1/2 tbs shallot (can substitute with spring onion)
    1/2 garlic clove
    dash of cayenne
    Lemon wedges for garnish

    Blend until completely smooth. You can use either a food processor or blender. Add more water if you like a thinner soup - it will get thicker the longer it sits. Chill for 30 minutes or serve immediately (How I like it). To serve: Ladle soup into bowls. Place 2 Tbs of corn relish on top and serve with a side of lemon wedges - which are great squeezed on top. Enjoy!
    - Serves 3

    Tip: Make sure that you remove the stems from the greens, as including them will make your soup too bitter. Both Kale and Watercress can have pretty strong flavors (more so than, say, spinach) but the sweetness from the peas and the citric acid from the lemon balances out any bitterness from the greens. Watercress in the soup will give you a spicy, peppery flavored soup, while the kale will  give you a somewhat milder flavored soup.

    Corn Relish

    1/2 cup fresh corn, cut from cob (or frozen, thawed)
    1/4 cup minced red bell pepper (or can substitute with seeded tomatoes)
    dash salt
    dash pepper
    1/2 tsp lemon juice

    Mix all ingredients in a bowl and serve on top of Sweet Pea and Greens Soup. 

    I appreciate and look forward to your feedback. I hope you will try the soup and let me know what you think!

    Peace and Greens, from the Diary of a Smart Black Woman


    Banana, Apple, & Greens - Smoothie Recipe

    I had some teeth pulled last week, so I've been taking it easy and loving up lots of soups and smoothies lately. This one, my husband came up with. It's super simple and pleasingly sweet. He made two versions - Yesterday's was made with soy milk; today's was made with water in place of the soy. As you can imagine, one was much creamier than the other, but they were both equally delicious in their own little ways.

     Banana, Apple, & Greens - Smoothie

    1 banana
    1 apple
    1 cup baby spinach, packed
    2 cups plain soy milk (or nut milk if you wanna make this a "Raw Food" smoothie)
    4 pieces of ice
    an open mind & love (yes, my hubster did write these 2 ingredients down : )

    Blend and Enjoy!
    - Serves 2

    Coming this week on the Diary of a Smart Black Woman:
    • Juices vs. Smoothies - and what's the nutritional difference?
    • Brussel Sprouts - a recipe you'll actually like!
    • Guavas and Greens - a juice recipe
    • Sweet Pea Soup - a surprisingly delicious Raw Food recipe


    Garden Vegetable Tofu Scramble - Recipe

    Tofu is a staple among many vegetarians and vegans. Derived from the soybean, tofu is an excellent source of protein for those eschewing flesh. Some doctors even recommend tofu and other soy products to help combat high cholesterol.

    I have to admit, it can be a bit challenging to make tofu taste good, but I think this is more an issue of texture rather than one of flavor. By itself, tofu has virtually no flavor. It pretty much takes on the flavors of whatever seasonings and veg it is combined with, thus making it an extremely versatile culinary ingredient.

    There are a lot of versions of Tofu Scramble out there, and as the name suggests, this dish is meant to mimic scrambled eggs. When I first got married, I was still a vegetarian and I used to feed my husband all manner of "weird" vegetarian foods. While he was put off by some of them at first, he immediately became a tofu convert the minute he tried this dish. This is, by far, his favorite tofu dish, and he swears it tastes just like real scrambled eggs. Although I'm not sure I'd go that far, it does taste pretty darn good.

    Garden Vegetable Tofu Scramble

    1 Tbs + 1 tsp - Olive Oil
    1/2 red onion, cut in 1x1/2 inch strips

    1 container Firm Tofu
    1 1/4 tsp turmeric
    1/2 red bell pepper, cut in 1x1/2 inch strips
    1/2 bunch broccolini

    1/2 tsp garlic powder
    3/4 teaspoon salt


    Prep Work: Drain the tofu and then pat it dry with a paper towel (or kitchen towel). Note: You may need to squeeze the tofu between the towel if it is retaining too much water. Next, slice the block of tofu into 1 inch-wide pieces, while still holding the block together. Then, cut the block in half. You should have approximately 10 pieces, or 2 rows of about 5 pieces. Squeeze each piece in your hand, mashing it until the tofu is about the same size as cooked scrambled egg pieces. Set mashed tofu aside.

    Heat a large skillet or pan on medium-high heat. Slice the red onion. Put olive oil in pan and saute onion about 1 minute. Toss in mashed tofu. Sprinkle turmeric and mix until all tofu in pan is yellow. Let fry for about 3-4 minutes, stir (or flip with a spatula) and let fry 3 to 4 more minutes. Your tofu should be getting browned (but, obviously, not black).

    After tofu has browned, stir in red bell pepper. Cut off about 1/2 an inch from the bottom of the broccolini and discard the ends. Cut the broccolini into 1 inch pieces. Stir broccolini into pan, then immediately add the garlic powder and salt. Stir and let cook for 1 or 2 minutes more. In total (not including the prep work), it should take no more than 12 to 15 minutes to cook this meal.

    Tip (1): I like to use broccolini because it is quite tender and quicker (for me) to cook and digest than regular broccoli. However, you can use regular broccoli florets if you can't find any broccolini, but you will probably need to cook it a bit longer.

    Tip (2): There are several types of tofu out there. Whatever brand you get, make sure that you choose tofu that says "Firm"or "Extra Firm." Do NOT get "silken" tofu (not even the firm kind). It has a soft and mushy texture and will not work in this dish.

    I hope you'll give this dish a try. Tofu scramble is easy to prepare and is a great-tasting way to introduce newcomers to tofu.


    Curried Sweet Potato Soup - Recipe

    I love making soups and usually pride myself on making excellent bowls of the stuff - even when I'm inventing something on the spot. That being said, the following recipe is delicious, but I think I'm going to tinker with it a bit more so that I, at least, will think it's amazing. I LOVE sweet potatoes
     (me, eating a sweet potato in China)

    and personally, I think they're rather underrated. Not only are they great in sweet and savory dishes, but they're good for you as well. They're an excellent source of Vitamin A (beta-carotene) and Vitamin C - both of which are powerful antioxidants which may help in ridding the body of cancer-causing free radicals.

    Previously, I've made a version of this soup combining sweet potatoes with a couple of carrots. Next time, I'll definitely add carrots again as they made for a sweeter tasting soup as well as a brighter, prettier color. I also prefer the sweet potatoes roasted whole in the oven before I add it to the soup, as this makes for a denser, sweeter flavor. However, this method takes more time, whereas the recipe below took no time to prepare and was ready to eat in under an hour.

    Curried Sweet Potato Soup


    1/2 red onion, diced
    3 medium or 4 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
    1/8 tsp celery seed
    1/4 tsp garlic powder
    1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
    1 tsp curry
    1/4 tsp cinnamon
    1 tsp dried parsley
    2 vegetarian bouillon cubes
    1 tsp soy sauce (tamari or nama shoyu will work too)
    6 cups water
    Juice from half a lemon
    1/2 cup baby spinach, chopped or chiffonade

    Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in large pot. Saute onions and all herbs and spices until the onions are tender. Stir in: sweet potatoes, bouillon cubes, soy sauce, and water. Bring to a boil, cover the pot and simmer at medium high until sweet potatoes are tender - about 40-45 minutes. Transfer soup to blender and blend until smooth. Transfer back to pot. Stir in lemon juice and spinach and immediately remove from heat.

    Serve and Enjoy!

    Tip - Up the pretty factor on this soup by garnishing the center of the soup with more chopped spinach or a pinch of your favorite sprouts.


    Product Review - Champion Juicer

    About 12 years ago, I worked at an organic Juice/Smoothie Bar and also did some vegan/vegetarian food prep at a Health Food store in New Jersey. Everyday, I made countless fruit and vegetable juices using a Champion Juicer just like the one pictured above.

    The skinny: The Champion juicer is a masticating juicer, which just means it "chews" the fruit or veg in order to separate the juice from the fibers. It does a good job of juicing up all manner of fruits, vegetables, and greens. On average, the Champion will set you back about $250 bucks. This may seem like a lot, but if you're serious about juicing (5 or more times a week), then this is a juicer I'd have no problem recommending.

    What I like about it: I used my Champion religiously when I first bought it a couple of years ago; but, to be honest, I only occasionally juice with my Champion now. (Lately, I've been using my blender to make juices AND smoothies - but I'll talk about juicing in a blender another day.) However, what completely sold me on buying this juicer was it's homogenizing function. A couple of years ago, while at chef school in California, I learned how to make the most AWESOME Vegan Ice Cream using just a Juicer! As soon as I returned home, I got this miracle ice cream making juicer, pronto! It also is great for making baby food and homemade peanut/almond butter.

    What could be better: Those who know me know I'm pretty impatient, so I wish it could do a faster job of serving up my juice. On the flip-side, this slightly slower moving juicer squeezes out a very dry pulp - which means you get a lot of yield from what you put in. It also means that it prevents the juice from oxidizing too fast which has the benefit of having your juice taste fresh for longer.

    How it compares: As with all juicers, clean up is a pain; but I bought a nice little brush that I use to clean the blades after each use. The only other juicer I've had a lot of experience with is the Juiceman Juicer. The Juiceman is a centrifugal juicer, which just means that the produce is mushed to a pulp and the centrifugal motion spins the juice away from the pulp. At less than $100 a pop, the Juiceman is a relatively inexpensive juicer, but it produces a wetter pulp, resulting in less juice for your buck. It also doesn't handle lemon peels so well and is not so great at juicing greens. So, if you only plan to become a casual juicer of apples and other medium to soft fruits/veg, then the more affordable Juiceman should do you just fine.

    The bottom line: The Champion works great if you are going to be juicing heartier fare such as greens (kale, collard, chard, sprouts, etc.), carrots, beets, ginger and lemons. It will do pretty much everything except wheatgrass - though it will even do this if you mix it in with other veg. Overall, these things are built to last a lifetime, so if you plan to make juicing part of your life-long health regimen, the Champion is definitely worth the price tag.


    Creamy Green Love - Smoothie Recipie

    This is my all time favorite green smoothie. I'd recommend it to even the meekest at heart. It's sweet, has a bit of protein, and most importantly it's green! I hope some of you are brave enough to try it because it's quite delicious.

    This is a great way to get greens into your diet - even if you don't like them. Spinach is, by far, one of the mildest greens and that makes it a great green for beginners to start off a regimen of juicing and smoothie-ing. Besides the fact that I've had an ongoing culinary love affair with spinach, it also has great nutritional benefits. It has a healthy dose of the antioxidant Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Calcium and yes, even Protein.

    Creamy Green Love - Perfect for Two (or for one really hungry soul)

    1 1/2 bananas
    1 cup baby spinach, packed
    1 1/2 cups soy milk (or nut milk) - these are both great sources of Vegan protein
    6-8 pieces of ice

    optional (though I usually always include both)
    - 1/4 tsp (or more) cinnamon
    - 3 dates or 1 tbs honey - if you have a penchant for sweeter things, which I do

    Place liquid in blender first, followed by other ingredients. Blend and enjoy!

    Tip (1): If you do not have a high-power blender such as a Vita-Mix or Blendtech, you may need to add a bit more soy/nut milk (or water) in order to get your blender going. If so, it may help to blend the ingredients without the ice first, and then blend in the ice last.

    Tip (2): This recipe (and loads others) taste great with frozen bananas. You'll also find that you need less ice. Just grab a bunch while they're ripe, peel them and stick them in a bag or freezer safe container. They are great to just have on hand. Frozen bananas make creamier, thicker smoothies, and not to mention - a great Vegan Ice Cream! But, that recipe's for another day.

    Tip (3): There are numerous reports/studies claiming that cinnamon can help regulate blood sugar, making it especially beneficial for Type II diabetics. Supposedly, it can slow the rate of sugar absorption into the bloodstream, so you don't get a sugar crash later. Disclaimer: Although I'm studying to get a doctorate, it won't be the medical kind. I am in no way suggesting that it's safe for diabetics to go sugar crazy as long as they pair it with a sprinkle of cinnamon. What I am saying is that, personally, as a non-diabetic, I enjoy adding cinnamon for the taste as well as the potential sugar regulating benefits.

    So, I hope some of you will give my green drink a try. If you do, please leave a comment and let me know what you think!

    Peace and Greens, from the Diary of a Smart Black Woman


    Introduction to the Diary of a Smart Black Woman

    This is my foray into the world of blogging. A former 9-year vegetarian, I'm tip-toeing back into the world of fresh, healthy and good-for-you food. Though, I still enjoy the occasional indulgence in wings (mmm, barbecue) and most (sweet) things baked.

    I received an associate chef certificate as well as a teacher's certificate in Raw, Vegan Cuisine. I enjoy un-cooking lots of strange deliciousness, especially my famous Kale Chips, which I hope to offer on the market place soon. When all else fails, and I insist on eating not-so-good-for-me food, I like to make sure I have some GREENS everyday!

    Fresh, leafy, dark greens are great for vitamins, minerals, and helping to ph balance the body to a more alkaline state. Salads are awesome; but, when I just don't feel like having one, there's nothing like a tall glass of Green Juice or a Green Smoothie to refresh the system and make you feel good about treating yourself right! I look forward to sharing some of my green favorites soon.

    So you know what you're getting yourself into, this blog PROMISES to deliver:

    1) 5 posts a week (some short, some long, some entertaining, some educational, and frankly, some rambling).

    2) 3 recipes a week. - Most will be vegan, but some will not; at least one will be a juice or smoothie recipe.

    3) Nothing but the truth about the world - according to me (i.e., my opinion).

    Now that you know a little bit of what I'm about, you should also know that I'm a hobbyist musician and a doctoral student in linguistics at George Mason University; so, I may occasionally subject you to posts about these subjects as well.

    May you enjoy reading this, the Diary of a Smart Black Woman.