AP NEWS

Chocolate-Covered Cherries Smoothie packs a delicious health punch

May 9, 2019

“One cup of this tasty summer delight (cherries) can keep the doctor away, aid you when it comes to cancer and age-related disease ... help you get a good night’s sleep, (and) ... helps with arthritis and inflammatory conditions.” — Lizette Borreli, Medical Daily

“Doctors are learning that one of the best ways to reduce inflammation lies not in the medicine cabinet, but in the refrigerator. By following an anti-inflammatory diet you can fight off inflammation for good.” — Harvard Women’s Health Watch

There is no doubt, this spring has been one of the most beautiful seasons in the Ohio Valley in years! From early-spring flowers, to flowering trees and shrubs, Mother Nature’s artistic flair has painted one beautiful canvas after another with each passing week. My husband, John, and I have had repeated conversations about our deep appreciation and admiration of this bountiful, colorful season.

Additionally, this spring I have had the privilege of teaching classes at Brown

Dog Yoga in Ashland. At age 53, it is wonderful to begin a new season of fitness, and help others do the same! Traveling to teach in Ashland means I am able to enjoy a 30-minute drive that cuts mostly across the back of Lawrence County on Ohio 243; and what a seasonal display of colors I have enjoyed during these drives! Redbuds, dogwoods, cherry trees and so forth line the roadside and surrounding hills radiating their celebratory colors for all to witness. In fact, it was the combination of teaching back-to-back fitness classes as well as the colorful blossoms of the cherry trees that became part inspiration for the following recipe.

I have three bulging discs as well as an extra vertebra. Standing or sitting for long periods, walking up stairs, and even certain exercises, all of which both my career as an educator and my newfound fitness passion require, can really fire up the pain receptors along my low back, down my legs, and into my ankles/feet. Typically, I simply grin, grit and inwardly groan my way through the discomfort and keep on moving. Still, I am often contemplating ways to reduce inflammation, improve recovery time and maintain overall good health. And, I suspect, I am not the only one.

Whether or not you are in my age group, fighting inflammation and maintaining overall good health are keys to an active, long life. Our immune system flairs up any time a foreign substance, or an injury (even excessive workouts can sometimes be perceived by the body as an injury), enter/occur in the body. Sometimes though, inflammation continues to nag the body, even if there is not a, per se, foreign threat/invader. In fact, many well-known diseases such as cancer, arthritis (like I now have in my low back), diabetes, depression/anxiety, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and so forth, are linked to chronic inflammation according Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch.

In fact, in an article published by the Harvard Medical School, reducing inflammation in the body may be as simple as daily food choices. Foods, such as refined carbohydrates — most white flour breads and baked goods; fried foods; soda and other sugary beverages — red meats, especially those processed; and margarine, including shortening and lard, can all produce inflammation, especially when consumed in excessive amounts.

Anti-inflammatory foods, however, have been proven to reduce inflammation and chronic disease, especially fruits and vegetables. According to HMS, antiinflammatory foods include: tomatoes; olive oil; green leafy vegetables — the darker the better; nuts, especially walnuts and almonds; fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna; and fruits, such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges. In fact, these are the foods, HMS maintains, should make up the primary food choices of a healthy diet.

Standing and taking stairs daily at school, regular workouts at BDY, back pain, inflammation, cherry blossoms, antiinflammatory diet, strawberries, blueberries, cherries ...

“Hey, I why I haven’t I created a cherry smoothie?” This is how my brain rolls on 30-minute drives or during random middle-of-the-night musings.

I typically dive into my school workday with a smoothie. Strawberry, blueberry, cauliflower and spinach are four of my favorite go-to ingredients, along with a non-dairy, gluten-free protein powder, for a plant-strong, nutrientrich breakfast. While I know it is often recommended to not drink your calories, I find my breakfast smoothie habit works well for me as I otherwise tend to make coffee my only breakfast liquid. Although coffee does offer some health benefits, it does not necessarily offer nutrients that both fuel and feed my body like my homemade smoothies. Thus, if I am going to drink my breakfast anyway, I might as well make it as beneficial as possible.

This recipe was also created with my grandmother Helen in mind. She dearly loved chocolate covered cherries. Each Christmas holiday, someone in our family always made sure she received at least one box of her favorite confection. Since I lived with both her and my grandfather for two years, I can still see her, sitting down in her gold recliner after dinner, one chocolate covered cherry on a napkin, as she savored it, bite by little bite. She’d often grin at me when I would teasingly ask her what she was eating, and bits of chocolate, as well as that whitish goo that covered the cherry, would blanket her lips. What a sweet memory for me to now savor! And, while, my smoothie recipe may not coat your lips in the same manner, it will fill your tummy with the anti-inflammatory goodness of fruits, vegetables and walnuts.

From my home to yours, I wish you healthy, happy, homemade meals or smoothies!

P.S.: If you happen to buy frozen cherries, they are soooo yummy to eat frozen, straight out of the bag, in the same manner some people freeze grapes and eat for a treat!

CHOCOLATE-COVERED CHERRIES SMOOTHIE

Ingredients: the basics

1 cup of favorite smoothie liquid, divided 1/2 (water, milk — dairy or non-dairy variations)

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup cherries, frozen or fresh

1/2 cup riced cauliflower, frozen or fresh

1 serving of favorite chocolate protein powder

1 tablespoon chopped walnuts or almond slivers

Dash of ground sea salt

My favorite add-ins for nutritional boost:

1 teaspoon chia seeds

1 teaspoon ground flax seeds

1 teaspoon hemp hearts

1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon cocoa or cacao powder (for extra chocolate goodness)

Additional optional add-ins:

1 teaspoon favorite greens powder

1 teaspoon favorite mushroom extract powder

1 teaspoon matcha powder

Directions:

In a blender cup, add in 1/2 cup of chosen liquid. Add in vanilla extract.

Toss in cherries, followed by protein powder, nuts, and any other add-ins you wish. Top it all off with rest of liquid.

Blend well until smooth.

Drink, or serve in a bowl, sprinkled with your favorite toppings, such as granola, mini-chocolate chips, dried cherries, additional nuts or seeds, and so forth. Serves 1.

TIP: I often make my smoothies for the week on the weekend and store them in my freezer. Then, the morning before I wish to consume a smoothie, I take one from the freezer, and store it in the refrigerator to thaw for 24 hours until the following morning. Quick, portable, and ready-to-go nutrition!

Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and a teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in Huntington. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at hill992@zoominternet.net. Or you can check out her website, stephsimply.com.