Avocado Mango Mint Smoothie

Makes 4 C

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write about the amazing avocado.  I’ve alluded to it here and there, but finally it’ll get the attention it deserves.  Before I go on however, a little note of encouragement for all of you who don’t love avocados.  There was a time when I was with you.  I didn’t appreciate it, I didn’t get it.  It’s a fruit but it isn’t sweet or tart or refreshing, in the way you normally think of refreshing.  No, it’s creamy, rich, buttery even, and it’s subtle earthy flavor has been described as creamy pistachio.  Not sure I would agree actually, because the sublimity of its flavor is truly unique.  But one day I decided to give it another try and well, there was no turning back.  It’s been a love affair ever since.  I could write avocados a love letter, a poem or even an avocado song.  I want to, but I won’t.  Let’s get down to why avocados are so good and good for you.

HOLY FAT!  Literally and figuratively.  Avocados are super fatty and it may as well be holy.  In fact, 85% of its calories are fat derived and all of it contributes to anti-inflammatory properties.  (Remember that most illnesses begin as some form of inflammation, so this is important to remember!)  Half of that fat comes in the form of oleic acid and this goody helps our digestive tract produce transport molecules that helps increase absorption of fat soluble nutrients like carotenoids.¹  Good news indeed!  Avocados are involved in benefiting our hearts and cardiovascular systems.  They play a role in fighting cancer, too.  According to Rebecca Katz, glutathione, a combo of amino acids, acts as “an internal vacuum cleaner” escorting carcinogens away from healthy cells and out of the body.   The most interesting thing I’ve read is that avocados actually increase oxidative stress in cancer cells and prepares them for apoptosis, or cellular death.¹  So, they nurture our healthy cells by improving inflammation and oxidative stress while at the same time killing off cancer cells?!  Good job, avocados!  Oh, they also regulate blood sugar levels (another benefit of the holy fat) and they are great for the skin.  Added bonus, I’d say!

No wonder I eat 1-2 avocados weekly.  They’re delicious in salads, in sandwiches, over rice and beans, with eggs, in smoothies!  (I LOVE smoothies especially during these hot months.)  Even Claire has joined in on the avocado obsession.  Like mother, like daughter!

You’ll need:

1/2 hass avocado

2 1/2 C frozen mango

10-15 largish mint leaves, chopped (I like the smoothie on the minty side so I went with 15)

1 C water

1/2 C coconut milk

1 T ground flax seeds

1 T agave nectar

1 T coconut oil

1 t freshly squeezed lime juice

To make:

1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until blissfully smooth.  You won’t need ice unless you use fresh fruit, in which case, add 4 ice cubes.

2. Enjoy!

¹http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=5 (There’s thorough info here on the fats in avocados that is very interesting!)

Mango Tango (Salsa)

Makes 1 1/2 C (approximately)

This dish came about on a whim.  My husband was braising then grilling short-ribs; it’s a long story with a delicious ending.  He said that some kind of sauce would be good.  Sauce led to salsa and salsa led to tango.  (In dance, I prefer tango to salsa and this “salsa” was more reminiscent of the former.)  As happens often in our kitchen, my husband and I bounce ideas off of each other until something magical happens, kind of like a tango.  We got lucky because the magic happened on the first try.  Since then (last week) I’ve made this tango 3 times and it has officially become a staple in our kitchen.  From the short ribs it also made it onto grilled chicken, fish and just as a dip for good ol’ (organic, non-gmo) corn chips.

So, what is it about mango that makes salsa more like tango?  Well, tango is sophisticated, elegant, beautiful, and sensual.  One would argue that so is the delicious, succulent flesh of ripe mango.  It’s a fruit native to tropical regions in the world (it’s the Colombian in me that craves this fruit like nothing else except maybe avocados) which is why during summer, it just seems natural to eat it.  It’s a great source of Vitamin A and other cancer fighting anti-oxidants.  It’s especially good for the gallbladder, reducing cancer risk by up to 60%.¹  New research has also shown that the quercetin, isoquercetin and other anti-oxidant compounds protects against colon, prostate, breast cancer and leukemia.²  Mangoes are also very alkalizing in nature which is good for our overall health.  (The body prefers to be slightly more alkaline and the Standard American Diet is NOT alkaline forming!)  Mangoes have potent digestive enzymes which help with poor digestion. They seem to contribute to healthy, glowing skin and they are an aphrodisiac.  Tango or what?

You’ll need:

1 C cherry tomatoes, halved

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 champagne mango (the small, juicy, yellow ones), diced

1 scallion, thinly sliced

2-3 T cilantro, chopped (I go heavy on cilantro because I love it so I used a full 1/4 C)

1/2 jalapeño, diced (If you’re not a chicken like me, go for the full jalapeño, but 1/2 seemed to be just the right amount of heat. For extra kick, add some of the seeds, but do so with caution.  Also, don’t do anything crazy like touch your eyes after handling the jalapeño!)

2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice (limes would be fantastic, but I didn’t have any)

Sea salt, to taste

To make:

1. Take half of the tomatoes and add to a saucepan with the olive oil over low-medium heat.  Cook for about 3-5 minutes until just soft, to help release some of the juices.

2. Place all the tomatoes in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients.  Adjust the lemon juice and salt accordingly.  Let sit in the fridge for 15-30 minutes to let all those flavors dance and mingle and love each other.  Then remove a few minutes before serving.

3.  Serve over any protein, as a dip for chips, add avocado and make a salad.  The possibilities for this tango are endless!

4. Enjoy!

¹Rebecca Katz, The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen

²http://realfoodforlife.com/10-health-benefits-of-mangos/

Grilled Chicken and Mango Salad

Serves 4

Sometimes I just want a bowl of raw, fresh greens.  It happens either when it’s warm out or just as a simple craving (remnants from my vegetarian past maybe), but this time it was a real need.  Too much wheat in the week naturally leads me to a bowl of the opposite.  There goes the wisdom of the body seeking balance on its own!

The grilled chicken breast has its own story.

This chicken lived a good life.  It roamed around freely and ate worms, insects and grass and all the other things chickens eat.  It hung out in the sun and got its feathers ruffled by the wind.  It chased other chickens and got chased a bit, too.  It was a happy chicken.  The farmers who send us our CSA shipments seem like very happy farmers who love their jobs and their animals.  So, when we get our whole chicken delivered, breaking it down is the next step and we feel like we’re participating in this whole, loving process of getting our food from the farm to our table.

(In lieu of a video of me breaking down a chicken, (I’m quite good at it, but sorry, no time to get to this step!), check out this link which I think does a great job of simplifying what may seem like a daunting task.)

Anyway, our happy chicken comes with great health benefits and is SO MUCH tastier than any conventional chicken.  Pastured* organic chickens are leaner which means lower in fat.  Because they grazed on greens, they and their eggs are loaded with Omega 3s, Vitamins A and E as compared to their caged, warehoused counterparts.  They are also free of antibiotics, which is no small thing!  No antibiotics means they weren’t sick to begin with!  Not to mention they are free of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.  It’s nice to eat poison-free food!  It also wasn’t artificially fattened.  As a result, this chicken looks and tastes different.  Even the breasts are juicy and tender, which is a bonus for me since I’m not a fan of white meat.  (I know it’s bizarre that I prefer dark meat and red meat…I have no logical explanation.)

You’ll need:

For the Chicken:

2 split chicken breasts

1 T olive oil

1 t Herbs de Provence

Juice of 1 lemon

Sea salt

Dressing:

1/4 C golden balsamic vinegar

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

1 T dijon mustard

1 t maple syrup

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Salad:

Baby greens or romaine lettuce

1 mango, diced

1/2 C candied pecans, chopped

1/4 C sunflower seeds, toasted

To make:

Chicken:

1. Wash and dry chicken breasts, then generously season with salt.  Add lemon juice and olive oil and lastly the Herbs de Provence.  Let sit for at least an hour in the fridge.

2. Heat a stove-top grill (or a real one, by all means!) over med-high heat.  Take chicken out and let sit at room temp for about 10 minutes before grilling.  You’ll have to be the judge on time since there are so many X factors, but I grilled for about 12 minutes on one side, then about 10 on the other.  (These chicken breasts also needed a bit of grill time on their sides which they got for a few minutes each.)  Internal temps should be 165 degrees.

3. When done, cut chicken into strips and set aside.

Dressing:

1. Whisk all ingredients together until emulsified.  Taste test with a bit of lettuce/greens and adjust accordingly.  A bit of lemon juice may round things out a bit if you’re not sure what it needs.

2. Just before assembling salad, dress the greens in dressing reserving some for chicken at the end.

Get your salad on:

1. With dressed greens in bowls, top with mango, pecans and sunflower seeds.  Lastly, top with chicken and IF you think it needs it, add more dressing.

2. Enjoy!

*A quick word on free-range vs. pastured chickens.  Unfortunately the regulations are loose and therefore the definitions are, too.  A free-range chicken can mean that the chicken saw a few minutes of daylight on a concrete slab before heading back into a crowded warehouse.  Pastured means the chickens at least got access to grass and natural, wild food.  It’s tough to tell what’s best by the labels.  My two cents is, if possible, get your animal protein directly from a reputable farm.  For more info, http://www.motherearthnews.com/Relish/Free-Range-Versus-Pastured-Chicken-And-Eggs.aspx