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Archive for August, 2010

So, Sunday I had a fabulous day with fellow n00b vegan diet follower, Mandy! I’m going to be frank…it’s been my experience that it’s not as easy following a vegan diet (or even a vegetarian diet) in the south as I would have hoped, but I really can’t be that surprised. I live in Alabama, which is consistently ranked as the first or second fattest state in the country. Sorry folks, but it’s true…While we do have a decent amount of options for healthy living (Manna Grocery here in town, Whole Foods is about an hour away, etc.), it’s not as readily available as some other areas in the country. I also find that while I’ve met quite a few vegetarians in the south, I’ve only met less than a handful of people following a vegan diet so far (though I hope for that to change).

Thank goodness one of them is the dear sweet Mandy! Mandy is actually a former student of mine…I taught her college speech a few years back when she was in nursing school! And, she was the one who kindly pulled out my drains after my tummy tuck back in December (click here to see that video…it’s pretty gross, but pretty neat if you’re into that kind of thing…and yes, I was still drugged up in the video! haha). I adore Mandy!

I think Mandy’s blog title is fitting (Southern Girl Goes Vegan) because it’s really not all that common here. But, that doesn’t deter her or myself from trying to find the best possible healthy eating for us for the rest of our lives…

ANYWAY…so, Sunday was a get together day. We met up to spend a day eating and shopping. We had a brief pit stop at Starbucks where I got an iced soy chai latte, as well, I was out pretty darn late the night (3:30 a.m.!!!) before and needed a pick me up (no, this isn’t a regular occurrence).

Then we headed out to Bottletree Cafe in Birmingham, which is one of the few vegan friendly restaurants in our area. I LOVE Bottletree. Such a fun, hilarious environment with AWESOME food, with many of their menu items exclusively vegan (did I mention this is rare in the south??)…Mandy had never been before, so she was excited.

We decided we’d get two separate brunch dishes and split them. Wise decision. We’re pretty smart. ha.

Here are some pictures from brunch at Bottletree:

Mandy is all hippy!

Funny sign!

Too funny!

Mandy sips it up!

Okre!

Pickled okre? We're in the south, of course!

Woot!

Holla!

DELICIOUS vegan brunch!

Sweet Delta Slinger: Homemade sweet potato biscuit open-faced with 2 hand-pattied soy sausages covered in vegan mushroom and sage gravy, served with a side of greens. This was soooo awesome and we both gobbled up our portions!

Andre the Giant: A hearty meal of veggies and tofu sauteed in nutritional yeast, served over seasoned black beans and yellow corn stone-ground grits. This was really good too, but we both admitted that the Sweet Delta Slinger won out in this vegan brunch battle. Still worth every penny (both dishes were $7.50, quite a steal if you ask me).

After eating brunch at Bottletree, we headed to Western Supermarkets to try the ever so blog popular drink, kombucha (at the suggestion of fellow Alabama blogger, Matt). I have to admit I was pretty pumped. I’ve been wanting to try kombucha for AWHILE now because everybody RAVES over it (especially Averie at Love Veggies and Yoga).

So, we purchased some and tried them out in the parking lot (no we could not wait). Here’s what ensued:

Kombucha!

Toast...to upcoming nastiness! And man, I look rough!

Ah, we were naive!

Seriously...so nasty!

Yep...I don't have a clue what is in store for me!

So.not.good. I don't care if it's healthy for me...

People. I don’t care. We both thought it was BEYOND disgusting. NO THANK YOU. People make fun of me all the time because I can really stand and eat/drink some pretty gross stuff (my pre workout Brendan Brazier fitness drink comes to mind). No thanks. No thanks at all. I’m fine without kombucha. BOTH types were just plain gross. GROSS. It was like tasting pissy vinegar. Ugh. Maybe it was this brand? I don’t know…but it took us FOREVER just to drink 1/3 of it and then I threw the rest of mine away. Gross. No thanks. Just gross.

We laughed about it though and I’m glad I finally tried it…but, um, no.

After that, we headed over to Whole Foods (the only one in Alabama, sadly) where we spent a good 3 hours shopping for various groceries. Yeah, that’s what I adore about Mandy. She is not a clothes shopper at all (like me). But, man, put us alone in Whole Foods and we could spend all day there! I loved shopping with Mandy. She’s really informed and I think we compliment each other with our vegan diet n00bness. Got some really awesome goodies, and even ran into a long time crush of mine who now works at Whole Foods (le sigh).

My loot from Whole Foods!

Not pictured: Luna & Larry’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Coconut Milk ice cream (in my freezer).

Took a nap after shopping (what can I say…shopping wears me out). Then Mandy and I headed out for a fun run by the lake. We also stopped at an elementary school and did “box jumps” and football drills on their field. I think we did roughly 3 miles and it was super fun. It’s so nice to have a local vegan diet friend. REALLY nice. And add that to the knowledge that fellow candytocarrots blogger and no-longer-vegan-n00b Lindsay has, I feel like I’m building a good support system circle. And that’s key.

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I know it’s very un-Iowan but we just had our first sweetcorn of the summer!  It was absolutely delicious, though, and I’ll be getting some more this weekend.  I served the corn with these Chile Chickpea Burgers – an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while kind of loosely inspired by falafel.  I’ve tried making bean burgers before but they always turned out too bland for my tastes.  I remedied that by adding a can of green chiles and some typical falafel flavors like garlic and lemon.

These chickpea burgers are just a little spicy but you could make them more or less spicy by adjusting the spices or adding hot sauce.  Green chiles are mild so don’t be afraid of using a whole can.  This recipe made 7 patties using a 1/2 cup measuring cup.  It’s kind of an odd number of burgers to have, but they are great as leftovers and we’ve been eating them all week on salads and in wraps, like so:

I served mine with salsa on top but they would be good with guacamole, hummus, or tzatziki too.   I used coconut oil, but you could easily replace with olive or other oil of your choice.

Chile Chickpea Burgers

Ingredients
2 Tablespoons ground flax
2 Tablespoons water
2 cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup shredded carrots (about 1 large)
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
2 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 (4oz.) can whole green chiles, drained
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice (juice from 1/2 a lemon)
salt & pepper

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350F.

Make your “flax egg” by combining the ground flax and 2 Tablespoons of water.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes until thickened.

Place all ingredients (including flax egg) in a food processor and blitz away until it’s all combined.  You may have to add a little more water – the mixture should be moist enough to hold together but not too sticky.

Scoop into 1/2 cup mounds on a lightly greased (I used olive oil in my misto) baking sheet.  With your hands or a rubber spatula, form them into burger-sized patties that are about 1/2-3/4 inch thick.  Bake on a lower rack for 25 minutes and then gently flip them over.  If they don’t flip easily, return them to the oven for 5-10 more minutes and try again.  After flipping, bake for about 15 more minutes (will depend on the size, I baked mine for 40 minutes total).  You can tell when they are done because they will get slightly golden brown.

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I know it has been a long time since I’ve posted, so here’s an update.

Farrell’s is over.  The last week just so happened to be the same week of a record-breaking flood in my city.  We had water in our basement and spent several days cleaning up from that.  The day we were supposed to have our final testing, pretty much the whole town was shut down or chaotic.  The University where I work was even closed and that never happens, ever.  Even once the floodwaters receded and our basement dried out, the town was under emergency water conservation orders and a boil order since our drinking water was potentially contaminated.  In the end we were fine and a lot luckier than some people who lost everything in the flood.  I’m actually writing this post from a sketchy laundromat because we lost our washing machine in our basement flood.  I’m trying to remember that I’m lucky that’s all I lost, even as I was fishing a dead cricket out of a washing machine basin before I threw my clothes in. We had a lot of stuff in our basement that had to be hauled out and much of it was spread all over the main floor of my house until things dried out down there and we were able to go through everything.

So as far as Farrell’s, it definitely fizzled out that last week.  They told us we could make up our final testing the following Saturday but I was out of town, so I never got to do mine.  I took my own measurements and did a few of the tests and I will post the “results” in another post.  I have to say I’m pretty disappointed, but what can you do.  Right now I’m trying to get back to running.  I’d like to get my base built back up to 3 or 4 miles and then start training for a longer race.

On top of all of that, a few days after the flood I was scheduled to host a bridal shower for my sister!  I was thrilled to get out of town but I had a hard time relaxing after that crazy week.  The shower ended up going well, and I have my mom and my aunt to thank for all their help!  I had to scrap some of my original plans, but I did end up making several vegan things – Black Bean Pasta Salad, a fresh fruit salad, Mini Red Velvet Cupcakes, Cream Cheese Mints, and Cream Cheese Cucumber Dill Sandwiches.  Everything went over really well – we hardly had any food left!  And people didn’t even know things were vegan until I told them.
The spread:

Then, the day after the shower was my birthday!  I usually like to go to the Iowa State Fair for my birthday, since it always falls close.  I wasn’t sure if we would be able to make it this year since I was out of town the first weekend, but we had a chance to go yesterday and I’m glad we did!  It was very hot and humid – we tried to stay hydrated and pace ourselves.  My favorite parts were the goats and the sky lift.

Luke cooled off with some ice cream. It was the perfect day for it, I found myself wishing aloud that the fair had non-dairy ice cream!

There were some amazing flowers, fruits, and veggies, like these:

And this “biggest cabbage” award winner, which I just thought was so beautiful:

So that’s what I’ve been up to.  Things have been crazy with school starting tomorrow (not for me, but at work), and I’m still trying to get back to some normalcy in my routine and around my house.  I have been cooking very little, but I plan to get back into it this week, so be on the lookout for some good vegan eats! Thanks for sticking with me and I promise to post more regularly. I missed blogging!

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One of my favorite hash tags on twitter is #whatveganeats.  I know a lot of people (myself included) wonder what the heck a vegan eats. Well, since I’ve been following a vegan diet as best as I can since August 1st (with some trial and error, as I am indeed a vegan n00b), I figured I’d post some of the recipes and food I’ve been eating…

•First, I’ve been making as many recipes from Brendan Brazier’s Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life. Let me also say that I have a MAJOR crush on Mr. Brazier. Like, it’s really sad how much of a schoolgirl crush I have on the dude. But, he’s amazing. I totally subscribe to his philosophy on food and nutrition and sport. If I was in the movie Eat Pray Love right now, he’d probably sadly be my guru on this “vegan diet” adventure. Sigh.

But, since I don’t really have permission to post the recipes (I really don’t know how that works in the blog world), I will just say that I’ve made his AWESOME Garlic Oregano Sweet Potato Fries last night and they were so good. So good. I’ve also made his Spicy Sundried Tomato Marina and Zucchini Pasta and Walnut Hemp Seed Burgers from Thrive (see below).

Ooh! I have been consistently drink Brendan’s Thrive Long Lasting Lemon-Lime Drink before every workout (the recipe was reprinted with permission by No Meat Athlete (adore his blog and my friend Mandy just got me one of his awesome shirts). Let me tell you something folks. I’m not going to lie. The drink is NOT pleasing to the palette; however, it works. Big time. I have set 3 personal records (PRs) in CrossFit since I’ve been following a vegan diet and drinking this energy drink (“Nancy,” “Helen,” and my power cleans, for my fellow CrossFit fans).

Post workout I generally mix a scoop of brown rice protein with some of Brendan’s Whole Food Health Optimizer and some glutamine. That seems to do the trick! Love the Whole Food Health Optimizer…just don’t have the funds right now to buy the giant tub! But, it’s on my wish list!

•I tried these black bean burgers from The Front Burner. Verdict? In love. I made enough extra to crumble on top of my super salads for the week. Yum.

•From Oh She Glows (one of my favorite vegan blogs), I’ve fallen in love with her Raw Energy Cookie Bites (seriously folks, these are AMAZING…I have one every day and I even brought them to my CrossFit gym and they were received with open arms; I will warn you that my boss said they looked like cat litter turds…but they taste amazing).

I also, like any good health blogger, have started making Vegan Overnight Oats. Oh my. Oh my. Not only does this oatmeal taste DELICIOUS, but it will keep me satiated for SEVERAL hours after I eat it (and let us not forget the deliciousness that is frozen peanut butter banana soft serve in this recipe). Goodness.

Last weekend I made Angela’s Birthday Cupcake ‘burgers’ with Secret Green Frosting with my friend Mandy and they turned out REALLY well. I will admit, the green frosting was slightly disturbing, but my boss’s young daughter (the same boss who said her bars look like cat litter turds) absolutely LOVED them…and mostly because she thought the icing looked like slimy boogers! haha. Now, I know that’s not a RINGING endorsement of the cupcakes, but they taste AMAZING. They were a little too sweet for me, and I actually only ended up eating one (sending the rest home with Mandy, taking some to my office, and then taking some to my CrossFit gym). Since it was the first “sugar” sweet I had in two weeks, my body kind of went into sweetness overload. One was plenty!

This vegan thing has really done wonders for my sweets cravings, as in, I haven’t had them. haha.

•I did make some Dark Chocolate Vegan Peanut Butter Cups from Love Veggies and Yoga. I love these. A lot. But, it took me a good week to eat one of them, which is a good thing for this sweets lover, believe me. I plan on making a lot more of her recipes, as they look delicious!

•I also made these Black Bean, Mushroom, & Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers from Vegan with a Vengeance and again, they were very tasty. I’m sad I only made two. Dang me and my singleness! haha.

•I also made a really good marinated tofu found in Ellie Krieger’s Small Changes, Big Results. I sauteed sauteed some veggies and ate it up over some quinoa. Delicious.

I think that’s it for now…I will do a post about my daily menu and eats coming up, but for now, just thought I’d share some recipes I’ve tried! Woot!

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Got fitness?

Those ladies aren’t too shabby, are they? They are Crossfitters, and I have this exact picture on my vision board to remind me about health and fitness and strong women!

I figured it was about time for me to do a post on Crossfit.  This post will be LONG but I think it will be worth it, and may even change your view fitness as you know it!  Last month was the 2010 Crossfit Games and I had planned on writing about it then, but I didn’t, because, well, I’m a lazy blogger.  Looks pretty awesome, yes?  Well, I think so.

Now, I will admit, I didn’t know anything about this Crossfit until I met for the first time with a personal trainer back in February 2009.  And I still don’t know that much about it and I’ve been doing it for a year and a half now! Haha. I had been doing strength training classes and running and spinning and yoga.  But, I told my personal trainer at the time that I was looking to try something different and something that would push me beyond capacity.  He said he had just the thing for me.  Little did I know that he was right.   We started one on one training with CrossFit exercises and then eventually I moved to my first CrossFit class back on May 11, 2009 and I haven’t looked back.

I’m a CrossFitter, tried and true.  It’s my primary form of exercise, and still, to this day, I have not found a single type of exercise that pushes me harder and is more dominant than CrossFit.  Perhaps I’m biased, but the winner of the CrossFit games is deemed,“the fittest man or woman on the planet.” That speaks volumes to me.

So, what is CrossFit?  “CrossFit is a strength and conditioning fitness methodology that promotes broad and general overall physical fitness. CrossFit combines weightlifting, sprinting, and gymnastics. CrossFit says that proficiency is required in each of ten fitness domains: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and accuracy.

That’s right.  There are TEN fitness domains.  How many do you cover with your workouts?

And this is to the ladies out there skeptical of strength training: it is not going to make you look like a dude. It’s impossible. Women simply do not have the testosterone to bulk up.  Look at this video of CrossFit women.  They are strong and HEALTHY.  They don’t look like body builders! They are strong and fit.  This is the epitome of health and fitness to me.

Here’s what I love about CrossFit.  The absolute diversity involved.  No two days are EVER the same. EVER.  And CrossFit works all elements of fitness.  I love the camaraderie of group classes.  I love the family environment.  I love how at CrossFit, I want to work to my fullest capacity.  No, I may not be as strong as the person next to me, but the workouts can be scaled FOR EVERYONE. I’m working JUST AS HARD as the strongest person in the class, because I’m working to MY fullest capability.  And that’s what matters. Everyone is supportive and they want to make sure you’re working at your fullest capacity!  You work as hard as you can at YOUR level.  And then you progress…

For example, when I first started, I had to modify my pull ups because I couldn’t do any.  I used a rubber band that helped me pull up (the thickest one they had at my gym).  And as I got stronger, I used a thinner rubber band, until well, now I can do pull ups on my own!  It’s all about progress!

So, we work all elements of fitness.  “CrossFit athletes run, row, jump rope, climb rope and carry odd objects. They frequently move large loads quickly over long distances, using powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting techniques. CrossFit athletes also use dumbbells, gymnastics rings, pull-up bars, kettlebells, and many bodyweight exercises.”

It’s intense and I love it.

Here’s where I’m going to get on my soap box.  I apologize if this will offend some people, but this has been on my mind and I have to get it off my chest.

While I appreciate the HUNDREDS if not THOUSANDS of health and fitness blogs out there, I am willing to bet that a good 80 to 90% of those blogs are simply about running.  Sorry peeps, running alone isn’t going to do it for you.  Running is GREAT.  If you can run, you’re in darn good shape, don’t get me wrong.  And I can assure you that you are a faster runner than I am.  However, there’s more to fitness than just running.  You need to be well rounded.  And adding strength training in to your fitness regime will do wonders for you.  I can run AND I’m strong.  REALLY strong.  And that’s all because of CrossFit.

There  is research out there that suggests that women who ONLY run are at a higher rate of osteoporosis than their strength training/cardio counterparts.  Strength training works…and works a heck of a lot better than cardio alone.  There are so many benefits to strength training.  Increased muscle mass = increased calorie burn.  You’ll lose weight faster.  You’ll be stronger.  You’ll look toned.  Training your muscles helps combat osteoporosis by strengthening your bones.  It helps your cardiovascular endurance. You’re going to age better. Wait, just read this list of the benefits of strength training.

Can running alone do that?  No sir or ma’am.  It cannot.

I’m sure you’ve heard or made the argument, “Strength training doesn’t get my heart rate up.”  Yeah, if you’re standing in the gym curling 8 pound weights.  But, CrossFit is FUNCTIONAL movement.  Believe me, when you’re swinging a 53 lb kettlebell up in the air 50 times or doing 25 pushups after running 800 meters, you’re not only working your muscles but your cardiovascular endurance is THROUGH the roof. Again, that’s why I love CrossFit.  I’m simultaneously working my strength and cardio fitness.

I like this quote: “The notion that holding a heart rate of 180 bpm for twenty minutes on a bike is good cardio whereas holding 180 bpm for twenty minutes in a circuit of weightlifting is of lesser cardiovascular value is widespread yet ludicrous.” —Founder of Crossfit, Coach Glassman

That’s my point.  CrossFit makes you an overall well rounded athlete.  You will excel in running.  Your mile times will decrease because your muscles are stronger and your cardiovascular endurance is greater.  CrossFit athletes are conditioned to be good at all aspects of fitness.  NOT just running.

In fact, one of my favorite quotes about CrossFit athletes over other athletes is also from the founder of Crossfit, Coach Glassman.  “We do your stuff nearly as well as you do, you can’t do ours very well at all, and we can do everything we both don’t do better than you can. Not very humble, I know, but true.”   Yes, harsh words.  But so true.

And, while this post IS about CrossFit…I know it’s not for everyone.  I guess I want to make a point that more people need to strength train in general.  I fully admit I drank the CrossFit kool-aid and sometimes I have complete BLINDERS when it comes to anything else.  But, yes, I firmly believe that CrossFit is THE best form of exercise out there, hands down.  They don’t call the winner of the CrossFit games the fittest person on the planet for nothing.  There is a reason.

But, I am imploring people out there to do more than just cardio training.  Yes, of course, I want you to do CrossFit, but I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.  But, just work your muscles.  Work your FITNESS. Work your confidence!

I train with CrossFit at Headhunters CrossFit and MMA.  They’re amazing people and it’s an AWESOME gym (the best in town, but I’m biased)!   I started there in September 2009 and  they have been nothing but supportive (they were a GREAT help for me after my tummy tuck by scaling the workouts for me until I was back to full capacity…I firmly believed I recovered so quickly from surgery because CrossFit got me in the greatest shape of my life).

If you want to start CrossFit, go to this website and find your closest affiliate gym.  But, keep in mind, you can do CrossFit on your own simply by following the main website workouts of the day (WODs).  But, I love group classes and I like personalized coaching on form.  Try it!

I will leave you with this video that I love…This basically summarizes all of the things I love about CrossFit.

Update: Just the other day, I did a fantastic workout at CrossFit where I ended up deadlifting 200 pounds (15 times), doing 50 atomic TRX push ups, and THEN running a 7:35 mile. I think it’s important that women understand you can be strong and fast (well, fast for me) and you SHOULD be strong AND fast. We should not lack in one or the other but work hard in both areas! So, get out there and pick up those heavy weights!!

And if you want to read more about my health/weight loss (120+ pounds down)/CrossFit experience, visit my CrossFit blog at Fit Effy! Woot!

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I’d like to now take this time to discuss my two favorite appliances in my kitchen.

First, I’m a relatively new health blogger (though I’ve been personally blogging on livejournal for 10 years now), and from what I’ve ascertained in the food blogging community the MUST HAVE appliance for any of us die hard health nut bloggers is the Vitamix. But, I don’t have an extra $450 just sitting around (and if I did, it’d go toward my “road bike” fund…or massages, lots of massages).

But, but, but…wanna know what I do have folks? And that’s a MAGIC BULLET. No, not the Silver Bullet, pervs. MAGIC BULLET. And, it is indeed magical. A client of my boss got me one about a year and a half ago and I’ve been in love with it since. I started making my yummy green smoothies in them about a year ago and the Magic Bullet works wonders for them. I keep one at the office and I have one at home as well. It blends and grinds just as good as any other blender (save The Vitamix). The Magic Bullet runs about $50, which is a steal if you ask me. I’ve not had ANY trouble with either of my Magic Bullets.
So, yeah. Get one.

Now for my MOST FAVORITE and HIGHLY recommended appliance for your kitchen…

FOODSAVER VACUUM!

This appliance is more than worth its price (which I got mine for $100 as a Christmas present to myself). Look, let’s face it. Salads and greens spoil super fast and bagged lettuces aren’t cheap. I simply empty my salad greens into my Foodsaver containers and vacuum those puppies shut! And voila! My greens last at least a week, if not more! I pretty much vacuum seal EVERYTHING I have in my kitchen, no joke. Veggies stay fresher, longer. Lately I’ve been taking to even vacuum sealing my vegan raw energy cookie bars from Oh She Glows, just because I don’t want to freeze them and want them readily available whenever I want them!

Not a lot of people seem to talk about the Foodsaver Vacuum, but I’m definitely a fan.

So, there you have it. My two favorite and most used appliances in my newly semi “veganized” kitchen! Haha

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In my quest to make the ultimate green monster nutritional smoothie, I have come up with the following deliciousness. This smoothie is amazing and really tides me over most of the morning at work. It’s basically my breakfast, but occasionally I’ll have it for my snack. And I know Brendan Brazier is a big advocate of smoothies. He advocates that we drink good sound nutrition to help with digestion so our body doesn’t have to work as hard to convert our food to energy, so bonus. Here’s what I have so far. Please feel free to suggest changes.

2 handfuls of spinach
6 to 7 frozen cherries
3/4 banana (I always end up eating 1/4 of it, don’t ask)
2 teaspoons organic chia seeds
2 teaspoons organic ground flaxseed
2 teaspoons L-Glutamine (love this stuff and really helps with my Crossfit training)
1 tablespoon dark chocolate peanut butter (nectar of the gods, I swear)
2 tablespoons rice protein powder
1 scoop Amazing Grass chocolate green superfood (love love love)

Here it is. Taken with my cell phone at work, so not the best quality. Yummy in my tummy.

What do you put in your smoothies?

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