Green smoothie and blue skies

The spring weather is just beautiful. Blue skies, birds tweeting, bluebells in the woods and new life sprouting out everywhere. I’m so fortunate to live near the countryside, but pretty close to town as well. It takes only a couple of minutes to be out in the fields and woods.

I used to go to the gym to exercise, but have gone right off it now. In India, there wasn’t really an option, as it was either too hot outside or too chaotic and polluted on the crazy roads. Since coming back, though, I’ve just not wanted to go back inside. Maybe it’s just my ‘hippy tendencies’ that make me want to convene with nature, but there’s so much more than just burning calories by exercising outside.

For a start, it’s visually stimulating – I get to see real life rather than garbage on a TV screen or someone elses backside (sometimes a good view!). I catch snippets of conversations, people deep in discussion, men at work – all carry my imagination off in random directions piecing together what their story might be. Then there’s the “morning” calls and “beautiful day for it” comments from dog walkers and fellow runners – as humans we need to interact; it helps us realise we’re not alone.

And then there’s trees. Maybe I lived deep in a forest in a previous life, but I find trees so soothing. Nurtured by nature; I always feel so good once I’ve been out through some woods, even if there is still lots of mud to navigate.

Research studies have concluded that exercising outside is really beneficial to our mental and physical well being – trials show that people feel more revitalised, positively engaged and have increased energy as well as have reduced levels of anger, confusion, tension and depression.   Mother nature provides once again.

As I was beginning to struggle near the end of my run today, I remembered an article I read earlier in the week about this incredible guy called Scott Jurek (http://scottjurek.com). He’s an ultra-marathon champion who does crazy things like run 165 miles in one day. Made my 10km look more than pathetic! Why this stuck in my mind is that he’s a vegan, eating a plant based whole food diet – 5000 calories a day of it when training hard (that’s a lot of beans!).  So much for vegans being fey and wimpy (although don’t think anyone would say that to Serena Williams’ face!).

Once back home, I needed some instant energy, especially as I had gone out early before breakfast and run further than I meant to. So I whizzed up this green smoothie; it definitely hit the spot. Spinach is packed full of beta-carotenes, folate, manganese, magnesium, iron and a whole range of other B vitamins, to name a few. I added the lemon juice to help the absorption of these goodies in the gut. Flaxseed is a fabulous plant source of omega 3 fats as well as protein to help cells repair and cinnamon is a great anti-inflammatory, so should help with some of the inevitable post run aches. On top of all that, it just tastes great, and as everything is all whizzed up and broken down, starts getting absorbed and hitting the spot pretty quickly.

Next time, I’m going to drink this before I go out for my run!

Running green smoothie
1 banana
200mls almond milk
couple handfuls baby spinach
1 tablespoon flaxseed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
squeeze lemon juice
Bung all the ingredients into your blender and whizz until all the spinach is fully broken down and blended into a vibrant green. Dairy free and delicious – enjoy!

Almond milk

Milk is a major component of the Western diet and it’s hard to manage without it. Fortunately there are a number of dairy free alternatives out on the market including soya, rice and oat milk. I noticed recently one supermarket has started making it’s own brand almond and hazelnut milk too.
But what if you find yourself somewhere that these alternatives are not so easy to find and you just don’t like the soya milk available? Homemade soya milk takes some work and so far I’ve not managed to make it quite as tasty as shop bought – bit too earthy! But almond milk is incredibly easy to make. As well as being delightfully fresh and tasty it’s packed with vitamin E for lovely healthy looking skin.
Almond milk

Here’s what to do:
Soak 1 cup of almonds in water for 6 hours or overnight.
Drain then place the nuts in a blender with 3 cups of water (or less if you want a thicker milk/cream).
Blend until the almonds are well ground.
The mixture now needs passing through a fine mesh sieve or muslin cloth (I use a tea towel) to take out the almond pulp. A cloth in a sieve over a bowl seems to work the best as once the bulk of the fluid has drained through you can squeeze the cloth hard to eek out the last drops.
The milk will be light and frothy and keeps in the fridge for a few days (if it lasts that long!). I’ve tried to find ways to use up the almond fibre as it seems a waste – it works well as a facial scrub or in healthy flapjacks, but I’m sure there’s more.