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Friday, May 28


After too many agonizing weeks, I was finally able to bring Richard home from the hospital in London yesterday. Even with the best care in the world (which we are blessed to have) there is no place to comfort, nurture and heal like home.

Once settled in his leather arm chair, with cricket on TV (alas, no dedicated sport stations in the hospital) I made haste to the butcher to buy a plump chicken. On Fridays and Saturdays, a lovely lady butcher, Tina, works the counter. She assumed, based on my purchases, I was making Richard a proper welcome home feast.

Ah, the good lady wife is makin’ a roast chicken dinner, with all the trimmins,” she murmured approvingly.

I love the term, “good lady wife.” And only hear it spoken at our local butcher shop. It sounds positively medieval and makes me feel I am living in 14th century England.

I didn't have the heart to tell her that her finest free range bird was to be used for stock. A rich, golden broth for making extra creamy risotto, mashed potatoes and thick, velvety soup.

Give me a bowl of Jewish penicillin (homemade chicken soup) over anything the pharmaceutical companies hawk. It is the mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters who are the intuitive healers of the world.

This is the second time, in as many years, my husband has battled a rare and deadly cancer, osteosarcoma of the jaw. Since most of his mouth and jaw has been re-built (four times) eating even the simplest foods, like soft scrambled eggs, is an enormous challenge while healing.

An entire industry supplies high calorie drinks to people who cannot eat. The hospital sent us home with 48, 125-ml bottles of such drinks. They are called Fortisip and come from The Netherlands. Each little bottle packs 300 calories. The vanilla flavour drink lists these 36 ingredients:

Water, glucose syrup, milk proteins, vegetable oils, tri potassium citrate, emulsifier (soy lecithin), flavour (vanilla), magnesium hydrogen phosphate, choline chloride, potassium chloride, acidity regulator (citric acid), tri sodium citrate, sodium L-ascorbate, ferrous lactate, zinc sulphate, nicotinamide, DL-a-tocopheryl acetate, colouring (curcumin), retinyl acetate, copper gluconate, sodium selenite, manganese sulphate, chromium chloride, calcium D-pantothenate, D-biotin, cholecalciferol, pteroylmonoglutamic acid, thiamin hydrochloride,
pyridoxine hydrochloride, sodium molybdate, sodium fluoride, riboflavin, phytomenadione, potassium iodide, cyanocobalamin.

I shudder writing this, let alone watching my husband sip the concoction. Maybe because he is an organic chemist, with 30 years working for a big pharmaceutical company, he is not bothered by chemical drinks. Perhaps because the hospital’s dietitians work in an institutional setting, they cannot comprehend my alarm over these allegedly innocuous beverages. The thing is, I think it’s easier for hospitals and dietitians to put seriously ill people on chemical diets, than to invest the time, energy and money required to provide them with real food.

One of my challenges with Richard’s homecomings, is to create real food, packed with nutrition, taste and calories, that is as easy to consume as Fortisip. It also needs to look as appetizing as our typical home cooked food does. Smoothies are the perfect option.

For the past five years, we have started nearly every day with a generous cup of French Roast (made in a traditional glass French Press, or if you prefer, cafetiere) followed by a pint size smoothie.
During mango season (May/June) we enjoy smoothies made with fresh Alfonso mangoes, bananas, pineapple, or orange juice, organic yogurt, Brazil nuts, and a dash of cinnamon. While the primary fruit and juice changes with the seasons and our moods, bananas (potassium rich) organic yogurt (good for the gut) Brazil nuts (selenium for the brain) and cinnamon (cholesterol fighter) are ever present.

In summer, we enjoy strawberry smoothies, with a dash of rose oil; melon and mint; watermelon and plum; pear and lavendar; peach, apricot, and nectarine. Come September, we gorge on blackberry smoothies; Coffee smoothies, made with strong French Roast coffee, honey, organic milk, and ice are the perfect warm weather pick-me-up.

In November and December, we often add cranberries and honey to our smoothies. Throughout the year, several times a week, blueberry smoothies are our traditional breakfast. Besides being packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, they are easily available in the frozen food section of most markets.

There is no limit to the variety of smoothies you can make. It’s fun to experiment with flavours and textures. The only equipment you need is a heavy duty blender, or a Cuisinart. I am partial to chunky smoothies made in a Cuisinart, but Richard prefers the silky texture of the blender. I have not seen a smoothie maker I would spend money on. I prefer sticking with classic, versatile appliances with dozens of applications.

When pressed for time, I occasionally make smoothies a day in advance, but like most things, it tastes better fresh. Preparation time is usually less than 15 minutes for two delicious pints.

What You Need for Blueberry Smoothie

Apple or Pomegranate Juice - 1-1/2 cups

Organic, Natural Live Bio Yogurt - 1 cup

Banana - 1 large

Brazil Nuts (shelled) - 6

Prunes (pit removed) - 6

Cinnamon - 1 tsp

Blueberries, fresh or frozen - 2 cups

If using fresh blueberries, add a handful of ice
to intensify flavours and improve texture.

What You Do

In blender, or food processor, combine juice, yogurt, banana, nuts, prunes, cinnamon, and blueberries. Blend for about 45 seconds, or until everything is thoroughly combined. Pour into serving glasses. Makes about two pints. 

What You Need for Fresh Mango Smoothie
If you are fortunate enough to get your hands on truly fresh, quality mangoes (best sourced from an Indian market, catering to people who know their mangoes) simply peel and slice a half dozen mangoes (removing the big seed, and lapping up the juice as you go) toss in blender, or food processor, with a handful of ice, and blend for 30 - 40 seconds. That's it. Nothing else required. Best smoothie ever (and probably the most expensive, but worth it) This also makes a beautiful dessert, served in elegant glasses to show off the rich colour.

What You Need for Frozen Mango Smoothie

Fresh Orange or Pineapple Juice - 1-1/2 cups

Organic Greek Yogurt - 1/2 cup

Banana - 1 large
Brazil nuts (shelled) - 6

Cinnamon 1 tsp

* Frozen Mango Chunks - about 3 cups
* Use as many mango chunks as you can comfortably fit in your blender, or food processor.

What You Do
In blender, or food processor, combine juice, yogurt, banana, nuts, cinnamon, and mangoes. Frozen mangoes are hard on blenders and food processors. Blend slowly for approximately 60 seconds, until everything is thoroughly combined. Pour into serving glasses. Makes a couple of pints. 

What You Need for Cranberry Smoothie

Pomegranate or Pineapple Juice - 1-1/2 cups

Organic, Natural Live Bio Yogurt - 1 cup

Banana - 1 large

Brazil nuts (shelled) - 6
Prunes (pit removed) - 6

Honey - 2 tbs

Cinnamon - 1 tsp

Cranberries, fresh or frozen - 2 cups

If using fresh cranberries, add a handful of ice
to intensify flavours and improve texture.

What You Do

In blender, or food processor, combine juice, yogurt, banana, nuts, prunes, honey, cinnamon, and cranberries. Blend for about 45 seconds, until everything is thoroughly combined. Taste. Cranberries can be quite tart. Add a bit more honey, if you prefer your smoothie sweeter. Pour into serving glasses. Makes a couple of pints.

Ideas and Suggestions

During warm weather, smoothies make the perfect dessert. Garnish with crushed almonds, pistachios, Brazil nuts, passion fruit, edible blossoms like borage, strawberries, fresh mint leaves, lemon balm, a float of fresh squeezed orange juice, or blood orange slice, a perky cocktail umbrella, a cocktail pick loaded with fresh pineapple chunks, or a brightly coloured straw.
If you don't do dairy, eliminate the yogurt and consider soy alternatives.

If you
want less sugar in your breakfast, replace juice with soy milk, or non fat yogurt.

For extra nutrition, conside
r adding a bit of wheat germ, or freshly ground flax seed to your smoothie. One of my favourite reference books, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, by Phyllis A. Balch, is an excellent resource for alternative/complimentary therapies.
What better music to accompany smoothie making than a bit of smooth jazz? We're listening to Nina Simone's, classic, You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To, as I write. It's from her collection simply called JAZZ. It includes one of my all-time favouritesMy Baby Just Cares for Me. And you know what? He surely does.

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