|Juicer or torture device?|
When I was in high school, my dad discovered the wonders of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. Dad jumped into anything that interested him feet first and, as crazy as some of these things were, he really was about 20 years ahead of his time. My parents' bookshelves were bursting at the seams with books and manuals that catalogued his progression of interests, from making yogurt and cooking with tofu to building an earth-sheltered home, eating for your blood type, and naturopathic healing. We'd barely recovered from having to recycle every scrap of aluminum and styrofoam when juicing struck his fancy. Adjacent to the giant ball of compacted aluminum foil which occupied a tremendous amount of kitchen counter space, there sat one of those old timey citrus presses, the kind where you inverted halved fruit over a ridged cone and used all your might to crank down on the handle that clamped the lid, all for a few lousy tablespoons of precious life-giving juice.
|Me in 11th grade. SO not interested in juice!|
The thing about Dad's new fad was, he wanted either me or my sister to prepare his juice for him. Whichever one of us set foot in the kitchen first for breakfast was greeted by Dad's melodious Polish accent: "Good morrrning, daughterrrr of Barrrtek. I am rrrrrrready forrrrr you to prrreparrre my grrrrrrapefrrrrruit juice." O mój Boże! (That's "OMG!" in Polish). I've never been much of a morning person, and the only thing my sixteen year old self was interested in at the crack of dawn was gobbling down a bowl of Captain Crunch so I could call first dibs on the bathroom I shared with my sister and two brothers. I'm really not sure why Dad got hooked on grapefruit juice. True, it was the mid '70s, and the Hollywood Grapefruit Diet had taken the nation by storm. But, Dad was never one to follow trends; he was more of a trend-setter himself. He wasn't drinking grapefruit juice to lose weight. I suspect that he believed fresh juice had real health benefits, and over the years, his suspicions have proven true. Raw whole foods contain all sorts of micronutrients and digestive enzymes that pasteurization and processing kill, and nowadays, it's widely accepted that freshness is where it's at.
|These grapefruits didn't fall far from my tree...|
My son, Nick, requested a slow juicer for his 23rd birthday, which is coming up on the 21st of this month. Over the last couple of years, he's become extremely conscientious about his health and has developed quite an interest in plant-based nutrition. There's no doubt in my mind that the dietary modifications he's made, along with yoga and meditation, have had a significant positive impact on the progression of his cystic fibrosis, that the gradual improvement in lung function and decrease in serious pulmonary infections he's experienced cannot be attributed to medication alone. Coming from a 22 year old guy, this might sound like a strange gift request, but it's really just part of his DNA. Nick's fascination with nutrition isn't surprising, given his legacy. It's the same with his brother, Rory, and his enthusiasm for making music. Grapefruits never fall far from the tree.
|...or from their Grandpa's.|
I gave Nick his juicer a few weeks early. Since he works at a natural foods store, he now has an innovative way to use up all that expiring produce that would otherwise be tossed into the compost bin. After hearing him rave about the joys of juicing, I decided to give it a try myself. I eat lots of fresh fruit and veggies, and carry my lunch to work in order to avoid eating crap. Unless I have cherries or apples on hand, Spartacus forgets about all the yummy things I have stashed in our crispers, so I have to find creative things to do with wilting greens, limp broccoli and cucumbers, and bruised fruit. There's only so much cobbler and soup stock I can make!
|Hmmm...isn't this how this thing's supposed to work?|
Several weeks ago, I injured my back from one too many HIIT workouts, and have been very aware of the fact that my jeans are fitting a little tighter than I'd like them to. I'll rest my back by walking for a few days, then I'll get disgusted and go balls out with a Spartacus workout, and boom! I'm back to being practically crippled. It's complete madness. Sure, exercise is a great way to burn calories, especially if you're resistance training and building lean muscle mass, but exercise alone won't compensate for caloric overconsumption. My eating habits haven't really changed since I switched jobs, but my alcohol intake has. When I was taking hospital call, I'd have at least two alcohol free days per week. In-house hospital duty is physically taxing as well, so in general, I was moving around a lot more at my old job. Now, I'm at home every night for cocktail hour. No matter how much you work out or how little you eat, the calories from alcohol are burned preferentially before those from fat, so you're basically negating any metabolic afterburn potential by ingesting booze on a regular basis. This has been on my mind for a while now, and I'm sure that's why I've gained a little weight. So, I figured I'd eliminate alcohol, substitute an array of fresh juices, and see if it makes a difference. It'll be interesting to see what happens.
|My new wine|
My first batch of juice came out kinda "meh." It was blueberry, black plum, and mâche with fresh ginger and a bit of turmeric root. I forgot to strain it, so it was really viscous. According to Spartacus, it would have been better served over ice. The second attempt yielded a groovy concoction called Pumpkin Pie juice. This one contained winter squash, apple, fresh ginger, and carrots. It was smooth and rich and absolutely scrumptious, like the lightest, most sunny pumpkin pie filling you could imagine. Yum! Next, I made a green juice with green apple, celery, cucumber, lime, kale, and turmeric and ginger root. In case you're wondering about the turmeric, it has anti-inflammatory properties, and I'm thinking it might help with my sore lower back. Anyway, the green juice was delicious and refreshing, especially when chilled. Lastly, I made ruby red HeartBeet juice from beets, beet greens, rainbow chard, cucumbers, kale, celery, apple, lemon, basil, and broccoli. That was my "wine" for the evening, and it too was very satisfying.
|Waste not, want not...it's all edible!|
After juicing, you're left with quite a lot of dry pulp. I figured I'd just put it outside in the community garden, but then I wondered if it would be too acidic and whether or not it needed to be composted first. As far as I know, there's not a compost heap around here. I didn't want to throw the pulp away, so I googled "what to do with leftover juicing pulp." Who knew there were so many things you could do with pulp? It's all edible, so it makes sense to use it in some way. I learned that, besides composting it, you can make bread and crackers with it, add it to soups and pasta sauces, stir it into cream cheese for a sandwich spread, and even make dog treats with it. Since my dogs are allergic to whatever the heck's in storebought dog treats, I decided to whip up a batch especially for them.
|I think this dehydrator's finally gonna get some use.|
I mixed the pulp with sunflower and flax seeds and some nama shoyu, spread it out on two dehydrator trays, scored it into bite-sized pieces, and let it dehydrate for about 16 hours. It smelled (and tasted) really good! This morning, Simon and Lilly were introduced to these homemade canine cookies, although I'm not sure they deserved it after tearing all the stuffing out of their dog bed on Friday afternoon. Welp, I suppose it could be worse; they could be chewing on shoes or furniture. Eight cups of leftover vegetable matter made my dogs and me very happy. They got crunchy wholesome treats and I got the satisfaction of knowing that no part of the produce I juiced went to waste. I even shared some with our neighbors' dog, Mason.
|I thought Kevlar was indestructible!|
|"Chew on these, not your dog bed!"|
Yesterday afternoon was a little voyage in discovery, transforming each colanderful of Nature's gorgeous abundance into supercharged nutrients in liquid form, glowing like jewels on the top shelf of my refrigerator. I can't help but think I've made a healthy move here. I was so excited about baking those dog biscuits that I ended up making another trip to the store for flax and sunflower seeds. As I was leaving, Spartacus looked at me and said, "You don't do anything halfway, do you?" He wasn't being critical; it was just an observation. "No," I responded on my way out the door, suddenly reminded of the unbridled enthusiasm for the little things in life that I share with my sons and their grandfather. "I suppose I don't."
|Gorgeous jewel-toned juice|