Sunday, October 28, 2007

Chicken and Root Vegetable Potpie

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
This recipe was wonderful! I've used frozen puff pastry once or twice before, but this had to be by far the most impressive.

Potpie generally seems like a minor pain because you make a white sauce. But this recipe from September's Cooking Light magazine really made it a snap. Instead of making the bechamel, standing there and stirring and stirring, you simply pre-cook your veggies and chicken in stock, pull out the veggies and lay aside, and then stir in flour and milk that you've whisked together. 3 or 4 minutes of monitoring and minimal stirring and you have a wonderful sauce. Dump the veggies and chicken back into it, pour it all into a baking dish, and lay the pastry on top.

Simple as...well. You know.

Here's a link to the recipe: Chicken and Root Vegetable Potpie.
It's pictured on the cover, cooked in individual little crocks. Very cool.

Incidentally, I shot this with the little Canon Powershot. I'm really going through withdrawal, missing my D40, but I discovered a very cool feature on this little camera that I don't think my big one has: I can set it to do multiple shots on the self-timer feature. I put the camera on a little tripod I have, set it to shoot 10 shots with a 3 second delay to start, and then started posing the food. The little camera just stood there and took shot after shot for me. I did that 3 times. Of course, only 3 of the 30 shots came out in focus, but hey...I got three shots! I've also noticed this one did a good job with natural light.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Halloween Table

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
On Halloween night kids of all ages (and many adults) go around from door to door, collecting enough sugary treats to rot out their teeth. Parents will beg them not to eat any of their booty until it’s been inspected carefully at the end of the evening. And truly most of the stuff will get home for the grand sort-out and trade-a-thon. But no one should ever think that a kid is going to resist eating at least a few pieces before the trudging and doorbell ringing is over. And if those few treats are consumed on an empty stomach, the prospect of sugar shock looms large and can threaten the trick-or-treater’s (and their parent’s) bedtime.
The solution? Well, maybe a partial solution anyway? Feed them a nice, healthy meal before they hit the streets. Yes, that seems like it could be hard when darkness falls just a few minutes after 6 o’clock, but with a little advanced preparation and a slow cooker, you could have a filling meal ready in just a few minutes. Dress it up in Halloween garb, and your kids might be willing to stick around for supper.
Beef stew has got to be one of the simplest and most common slow cooker meals. Simply toss the meat, any root vegetables you might like, and the liquids into the pot at the beginning of the day, turn it to low, and go off to work. When you arrive home, crank it up to high, drop in the softer veggies and you have a meal ready in less than 30 minutes. The recipe below can be easily adapted to a slow cooker. Just remember to keep out anything that might turn mushy with long cooking (in this case the zucchini, tomatoes and olives) and add them just before serving. Use your judgment about thickening the broth. If you like it runnier, leave it like it is. There’s more to mop up with your favorite crusty bread that way anyway.
Many folks like to do up Halloween proud and have a big party. Finger foods are the order of the day when you go with something like that. Here are a few ideas for party snacks:
• Hairball Salad with Saliva Dressing-recipe below. This seemed a little bland. You might want to consider making your favorite guacamole recipe and mashing the sprouts in with that.
• Fried Spiders-made with jalapeno poppers and onion rings, this tasty treat is easy to make, but very hard to keep the spiders intact. They tend to fall apart in the oven. Reassembling them on the serving plate, while yielding a rather flat bug, is still a fairly effective presentation.
• Punch-Green. It has to be green. Mountain Dew is a good choice for the main liquid. There is no other beverage that yields that special yellow-green glow. Float a frozen red hand in it. Beware, however, as the hand thaws fingers tend to fall off and one can not control which fingers will go first!
Whether you are talking about the last supper before trick-or-treating or a big, bang-up party for all your friends, Halloween food definitely needs to have two main components: quick & creepy. Search the internet, magazines (and newspapers) for ideas and start shopping!


Friday, October 26, 2007

My Favorite So Far

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
This self-portrait project can be fun and stressful. There are days when I get a scathingly brilliant idea and manage to pull it off, and then other days that are terribly uninspired.

I'm particularly proud of this photo I took several days ago. I had the idea in my head for a few days, and really puzzled over how to do it without getting the camera in the photo. But once I scrapped that notion, I had a good time with it.

It's RAINING!!! Woo Hoo! It's been raining pretty much solid since Wednesday afternoon and we've gotten a little over an inch. Of course we could really use 38 more days and nights of it. I ordered around $200 worth of plants for the back garden the other day and they are on their way. I sure do hope we don't go to stage 4 water restrictions, which would mean no watering of any kind.

I had to take my camera to the shop yesterday for cleaning and repair. I have a service contract on it, which permits 2 cleanings per year, but the prospect of having it gone for 6-8 weeks seemed daunting. Then the other day the little latch that holds the on-board flash broke. It's particularly ironic because I don't really use that flash. I bet I've only used it 2 dozen times. I rarely use a flash at all. I think this photo was the first time in 4 or 5 months that I had the speedlight on.

Anyway, I took the camera, kit lens, and zoom up to Wolf Camera and dropped it off for that. Then I talked to them about a small point & shoot. I'm coming into the busiest season for writing and photography, and I can't be without a camera. I had picked up an HP Photosmart camera at Best Buy on Wednesday and it REALLY BITES! What a hideous little camera! It has NO user controls whatsoever...just scene modes and auto, and any little thing you set it up for goes back to default when you turn it on.

So I ended up buying a Canon PowerShot A560 for about the same price I paid for the HP. I'll run the HP back today. I'll have to spend some time with this one to see how to use it best, but I think it'll be okay. I still miss my Fuji Finepix F10.

Today I work hard and heavy at insurance work in the morning, and then this afternoon it's all domestic chores.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Canine Communications

I think my puppy is into instant messaging.

Pretty much, if he yips at you, you'd better get him outside. NOW. Or else. Tootsie rolls on the carpet.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

One Cool Thing

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
on my husband's ibook: Photo Booth


Wednesday, October 17 was a big day for our community. That afternoon I went to the bid opening for our new library. We were very pleased with the results: 11 bidders came in and the lowest was only $9,000 over our cost projections from a year ago! Amazing when you consider inflation, gas prices, etc. And it was a local contractor, to boot. A nice bonus. I always like to do business locally.

Thursday and Friday I pretty much spent working on my continuing computer problems. The short story is, consider carefully before upgrading to Office 2007. My computer has been restarting unexpectedly since installing the suite. And I'm still not sure I can run MS Access at all. I had quite a few photos to run through and some writing to do, so it did make things rather slow going. But thanks to "autosave" I never lost anything.

On Saturday afternoon we had a picnic at Landsford Canal State Park. It was pretty much a spur-of-the-moment thing. It turns out that our guys don't mind hiking at all, so that morning after Jazz I proposed we go. We did some work around the house and then found out the park closes at 6. So we put together a quick burger picnic at Food Lion and headed out.

It was a beautiful afternoon! And fun! I have been wanting to shoot a family photo for Christmas cards, so I set up the tripod and we played around:




Yup. He threw up on my leg. Paulsons reading this will remember the time Nate threw up on my head at a family reunion. If someone is going to throw up on me, I guess I'd prefer the leg.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

What a Week!

So much to blog about, so little time! Last Tuesday I went downtown with buddies Sarah and Debbie to shoot the Jazzercise demo classes they held on the corner of Trade of Tryon. It was really fun for me! With the shoulder thing, I wasn't able to carry a bunch of stuff or set up anything, so I basically wandered around and played with my camera all morning. They did two 30-minute classes (without weights) on the street corner. The idea was to promote Jazzercise, the Charlotte Checkers hockey team, and the special Ronald McDonald House fund raising they did at their game on Saturday, Oct. 20.

The classes were a big hit, garner attention of the downtown lunch crowd. Some folks stopped to watch, others just steamed on full ahead with their lunch plans.

After that was all over, the three of us hit lunch at Baxter's Liu Liu's, a chinese restaurant that has a very nice outdoor covered patio. And a decent wine list. I had an Italian Pinot Grigio I wasn't that crazy about, but it was okay.

That afternoon I hit the last home meet for our high school's cross country team. As I rolled up and was prepping my equipment, the newspaper's staff photographer appeared at my elbow. Neither of us knew the other was coming, of course. Since I am the reporter for the team, I've been shooting them whenever I can, but I hadn't told my editor I was going to be at that one. She sent Aaron up. I was so pleased with my jazz photos from the morning, that I decided to stay and practice shooting some more. Aaron graciously hung by me and we talked photography, me peppering him with questions, and he offering me some sage advice. Since another county high school was in the meet, I felt fairly certain that the editor would be willing to use a photo or two of mine for our team and then use Aaron's photos for the other. I'll find out on Wednesday when the paper comes out. Anyway, here is a photo I shot of what I consider to be the most inspirational runner on our team:
I took this photo in early October. Got a lot of great photos at that meet, but my exposure was terrible. The photos came out dark and grainy. Since then I've learned a lot about the metering my camera does and how to use that information. I went back last week to see if I could get this shot again with a better exposure. With Aaron's help, I was able to improve the exposure and reduce the noise, but then they had a slight blur! My panning really needs some serious work.

On Wednesday I shot a flower and some shoes. I wrote about the shoes and posted one photo. But I really feel the need to share this one:
Did I mention she has 113 pair? But go check out her blog.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

I Shot the Shoes

Originally uploaded by mary.mcclane
Yesterday, what I thought was going to be a "one hour show Mary how to put photos on her blog" turned into a three hour, 113 pair, shoe shootout.

Yes. 113 pair of shoes.

I did not shoot them all individually. I shot about a dozen individually. And did a couple of collection shots...goofy collection shots.

Mary, bless her heart (and I do say that in the "southern" sense of the word), is under the notion that if she exposes me to her shoe fetish often enough I will become a shoe collector myself.

But it did make for some fun shooting.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

How's the Self-Portrait Project Going?

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
Not bad. Of course, some of our suppers have suffered. I'll be doing some prep work and suddenly think: "Hey! Self-portrait!"

Took me half an hour to chop one package of mushes for supper. I also shot me flipping them in the skillet (A flippin' skill I have that my MOTHER does not! ha!).

I like this one, but it's a bit orange. I need to work on color management. But the natives were getting quite restless about supper so that lesson will have be learned another day.

I had a very good photo day yesterday. I shot some wonderful photos of the jazzercisers doing their thing downtown yesterday. Here's a link to the TV story about it. (it's Cam Man for Tuesday. Hit "Play." I doubt it will be up after tonight's news.) In the late afternoon I hit the Cross Country team at their last home meet. I haven't reviewed those shots yet. But I learned a TON about shooting action photos, and understanding the metering on my camera.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Well, At Least it's a Sports Injury

An inflamed Subscapularis. Who'd a thunk it? Me. A sports-related injury. Doesn't matter how I got it. It still hurts! The directions are to stay off it for a week at least. Well, it is the shoulder. So I guess I'll have to give up all that shoulder walking I do.

Today I go downtown with buddy Sarah to a promo event put on by the Charlotte Checkers hockey team. They are having a game Saturday where a lot of the proceeds will benefit the Ronald McDonald House. Today the Checkers are putting on a lot of stuff downtown to promote the game. They will be at the corner of Trade & Tryon. Jazzercise of the Carolinas is doing a floor show during the game Saturday, so today they are doing two half-hour classes on a street corner as part of the promo. Since I have a SPORTS INJURY (argh) I'm not participating in the classes. I'm going along to photograph it. It'll be fun. And less sweaty for me.

I watched a good movie this weekend. "Shooter." Mark Wahlberg is an ex-sniper that is coaxed into coming out of seclusion to help foil a plot to kill the President. But he's double-crossed and ends up having to be on the run and defend himself. It was a great movie!

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Our Weekend

Did You Hear That?
Bear and I enjoyed "Prairie Home Companion" after church on Sunday. A ritual of mine that I now share with this little fellow. This was one of the shots I got off for my 365 project yesterday.

We napped while Mensa Boy screwed down a metal strip on the family room carpet where it connects to the kitchen floor tile. Why was he doing that? Because SOMEONE found an errant thread sticking up from the carpet edge and managed to parlay it into a 2-inch wide HOLE before he was caught!

So that was our Sunday.

We worked hard to get to Sunday this weekend. We began Friday afternoon by piling into the car. Nate forgot something, so had to go back into the house to get it. I saw no reason to make it easy for him:
And so we were on our merry way to the beach by 4:30.

We stopped at a BBQ place called Westwood sometime around 6 p.m. and had a wonderful supper. And then proceeded into Darlington.

Where the transmission on my car started to act funky. Not shifting over 45 mph. Check engine light came on. After an hour in the company of a local gentleman named Charles Parker, who led us to two different auto parts stores, where we were able to hook up to a handy-dandy device that told us the engine light was on because of a "transmission control sensor," we decided it might be best to head back home rather than on to the beach. (take a breath after that long sentence. I don't plan to edit it) One of the deciding factors was when buddy Tambri said she'd be happy to come rescue us if we were stuck somewhere between Darlington and home. But there was a silence on the line when the idea of proceeding to Myrtle Beach came up. Apparently her friendship only goes so far! (wink wink)

And so we were home by 9:30, and the next day mused to our friends that we had driven to Darlington for some good 'Que the night before.

Saturday was a pretty usual day, ending with a sad farewell to buddy Chris and her family. Late at night, wine and chocolate involved. It was a bit teary, but we'll all get through it.

Oh! I finally saw some cotton up close! Every time we travel to the beach in the fall I wonder why I don't stop and shoot some. Natives don't understand the Yankee fascination with cotton, but it's there. We grow up hearing about this extremely important crop (that and tobacco) and all the prosperity and heartache involved. And marvel at how our clothes are made from a plant. To see it up close is So before the transmission deal, I had stopped at a field to shoot some up close:

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Friday, October 12, 2007

IL Posse

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
Back left: Chris, Rena, Tambri, Cassie
Front Left: Chris' daughter Samantha, me, Nannette

"Tied together by stuff too difficult to explain to someone new"

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

RAM & Rawhide

Good morning! I woke up this morning to find my computer won't boot up. Good buddy Don is going to help me troubleshoot that when I get back from Jazzercise. One of the first things he said was, "there was a Windows update yesterday that messed up a bunch of computers."


Of course, mine won't even boot up to let me back out of the update. Might be a RAM chip. My computer loves to eat RAM. Much like the puppy loves to eat rawhide strips. The computer takes its' time, though. About a year per chip. Bear can eat a rawhide strip in 3 minutes flat.

I'm starting to have some serious doubts about jumping into this 365 group on Flickr. This is the challenge to do self-portraits every day for 365 days. I'm up to day 5 and running out of ideas. Actually, I can get ideas, but they are rather uninspiring when you I look at what the others are doing. If I gut this out, the project should really boost my creativity. And Photoshop skills. Last night I took a photo of myself sitting on our patio in my shorts and tank reading about Thanksgiving dinner in Fine Cooking magazine. After I finally shot one that didn't make my neck look like I was 80 years old, I loaded it up and found a stick coming out of my head! Well, not actually coming out, but the vine behind me looked made it look like that. So I loaded it up into Photoshop and figured out how to used the clone stamp to erase it out of there. It worked great! I think I'll go back to a cemetery photo I shot this summer and try erasing some power lines from it.

So. Today will be computer repair day. And maybe cleaning bathrooms day. And I'll work on my camera. I can't give you any photos right now, I'm on the guy's computer and the filter blocks images from Flickr.

Have a good day!

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I Won't Say I'm Getting Old. I Hate It When People Say That

Monday night I went to dinner and didn't get carded when I ordered my drink. Not unusual, but I did feel sort of odd when the waitress carded Brooke and Kitt.

Today I went to AT&T Wireless to see about getting a new phone for Nate. I didn't get the phone, but I did buy a Bluetooth headset for my phone. I'm having shoulder trouble from talking on the phone (just holding it...not clamping it between my shoulder and ear) and I'm having trouble hearing on my phone. After I completed the transaction, I said to the fellow, "Will I be able to hear better with this thing?"

"Oh yes, ma'am!" he said. "Are you having trouble hearing with your phone?"

"Yes. Many callers sound muffled or garbled," I explained. "Can the tone be adjusted?"

"Let me look at it," he said. He took the phone from me and pushed a couple of buttons. Then he called a number with a recording and handed it back to me. "Is this better?" he asked.

I picked it up and listened to it. "Yes! That's much better!"

"I adjusted the volume," he explained. "You had it on 3. I bumped it up to 5."


Then I went to Office Depot and tried to slide my card through a spot on the card reader where another box was attached. "Oh, no problem ma'am," the checker said. "Just slide it through that slot. It confuses a lot of people."

So. I went home and took a nap. That's what old people do.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Komen Race 2007

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
Here's our own Gang of Four, just before the start of Komen Charlotte. We brought our own survivor with us. That's Nannette on the left. 4 years cancer-free! Good on ye, girlfriend.

That's Cassie next to Nannette, then me, then Rena. I'm wearing a tag that says I'm walking in honor of my friend Pam Gonnella.

But there were really quite a few people that I thought of that day:

My Grandmother, Pearl E. White, who passed away from breast cancer in 1986.

Pam Gonnella, who is still suffering from the ramifications of her mastectomy and reconstruction.

Linda McCorkle, who just in the last few weeks stopped taking the toxic drug Remedex, which is sometimes given to hopefully stop the recurrence of breast cancer.

Leslie Hoffman, who is also a survivor.

Edith Buss, who does not have breast cancer, but instead has mantle cell lymphoma.

Elaine Lidke, currently battling this disease.

Kathy Paulson, who had breast cancer metastasize to her bones and still has survived. I don't recall how long ago it was, but I'm certain it was a least 10 years. The medical community has come a long way in this battle.

Marcy Valenty, who was just diagnosed last year.

Obviously, my dear friend Nannette. It was a privilege to walk along beside her.

As my friend Dave Dougherty says, we kicked some cancer booty Saturday!

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the race. I gathered $610 in contributions this year!


Monday, October 08, 2007


Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
Yesterday I started a project called 365. The idea is that the photographer takes a self-portrait every day for a year. You're supposed to learn a lot about self-portrait photography that way, and I imagine it's going to do a lot for my knowledge of exposure, focus, etc.

I'm not going to post them all on here. This is the first one. But if you want to see them as I go along, you can click on the link to my Flickr account on the right and find the group marked "365."


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Another Teenager Among Us

Here's Taylor, about to climb for the first time. He and Mensa Boy went yesterday for his 13th Birthday!


He liked it! Right after they did several climbs, he told MB he enjoyed it but probably wouldn't do it again. But later he told me he probably would. I think he got really tired. MB enjoyed it a lot and would like to do it a lot. I think we'll check out some other places in the area, too.



Friday, October 05, 2007

What NOT to Eat

The author of "Balance" obviously has an unbalanced palate:


I think my favorite part of this entry is in the comment section, where he likens his sandwich to the United Methodist Church.

"Open jars, open hands, open mouths…the sandwich of the United Methodist Church!”


Product Review: GFIC Dark Mayan Chocolate

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic

I'm in heaven.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

It's a Thursday. Running out of Week!

I hit the $500 mark yesterday. Buddy Cindy from Jazzercise kicked in the last $5 to make it an even $500.

Yesterday I worked all day on one CD project. Very very frustrating. I went to Jazz in the afternoon and pretty much wiped myself out, too. Today I hope to get the rest of these done, but Mensa Boy returns from Uruguay today and I need to put together a nice family meal for supper, as well as do a little work on the floors here.

Bear's last puppy vet visit was yesterday. Quite traumatic. He has tapeworms (caused by swallowing fleas), and so had to be given medication for that. And we microchipped him, which is a little painful. The needle used to embed the chip is quite large. It actually drew blood. The poor little guy climbed up my chest and wrapped his paws around my neck. But after all the worming, rabies, bordetella, lepto, parvo, etc, he is now official. Bona Fide. Has a rabies tag. There is no pet registration in our county, so the microchipping the rabies tag are the best ways to get your dog back if he gets lost.

My neighbor, Mary Jean, lost her old dog at the beginning of the summer. He wandered off when she let him out to the bathroom at 3 in the morning. She sat down on the couch to wait for him and fell asleep. He was found 4 hours later on the other side of the road in the back part of our neighborhood. The woman who found him called the vet phone number from the rabies tag and the vet called Mary Jean.

He's coming along on the housetraining. He goes to the door more and more now and each time he does go potty when he gets out there. But he also likes to just get out there, so I know he's going out more than he really needs it. But for the time being, we'll need to respond every time.

That's it for today! I have another product review for tomorrow.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Yeah. I had fun...

Buddy Jenny Overman of the Fort Mill Times shot this Saturday at the Festival. Thank you, Times, for allowing me to post this. Yup, that's "Dr. Pretty," Indian Land's hot chiropractor. I'm proud to call him a friend of mine, too. Adam allowed himself to be dunked more than 250 times on Saturday. And he drew quite a few comments from the ladies, too!

This week I'm catching up on insurance work and trying to take back hearth and home. Mensa Boy returns from Uruguay on Thursday and then Saturday is the BIG KOMEN RACE! I'm so excited about that. I've raised $495 so far! Amazing! I'm thinking Mensa Boy may need to pledge a few bucks, too. (of course, what's mine is mine and what's his is mine, so I guess that would be me pledging...)

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Product Review: Natural Greens

I'm up to $345 raised for the Komen Foundation! Thank you for your support! There is still time to pledge. The race is Saturday.

Originally uploaded by Food Fanatic
I've never been a big fan of vitamins and supplements before. I've always eaten a well-balanced diet and never really felt the need to get my daily A B C's from pills. But in the past year I've had suggestions from both my doctor and chiropractor to try a few. My doctor suggested D, Calcium, E, and C. And so I've been taking those off and on for a while. Now I'm committing to taking them every day. My chiropractor suggested an Omega 3, and so I've added Flax Oil. Many people take Fish Oil, and that's fine. But I like Flax.

I can't really say I've had an overwhelming epiphany with any of those that tells me "Wow! MY entire life is better because I take these!" But they are good to do and I'll just keep it up. I do have to say my hair and nails are growing quickly now and also are strong and don't split.

Last week I agreed to try this Chiropractor's Blend Natural Greens supplement. The chiropractor suggested it to help with my sometimes flagging energy levels. Actually, my daily flagging energy levels. Just some days more flagging than others. He knows I won't use any sugar substitutes, and that I am careful about my sugar intake altogether. He suggested this supplement after hearing from a colleague in his office that it's the one supplement his colleague really likes and feels great about.

So, $35 later I went home with this canister of green powder. 1 tablespoon is a dose and there are 30 servings. A little over a buck a day. I add it to my smoothie. It adds a slight sweetness to it, but has no "green" taste to it all.

I've noticed an ENORMOUS difference in my energy levels. This past weekend was an exhausting one, with the culmination of the big festival I've been working on for months. I ran around all day for close to a week in preparation for it, and I can honestly say I felt pretty good all the time. Never even felt the need to nap! The body got a little sored, but my brain was going right along and the body just kept chugging along.

Here is my smoothie recipe. I've been having this for breakfast most days. Note the calories. This is not a snack. It is a meal replacement.

Green Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie
447 calories

1 frozen banana
2 Tablespoons All Natural, no sugar added peanut butter (I use Smucker's)
1 Tablespoon Natural Greens powder
8 ounces vanilla-flavored Soy Milk

Break up the banana into 3 or 4 pieces. Drop in the peanut butter. Sprinkle with greens powder. Pour the milk over top. Allow it to sit for 5 or 10 minutes to soften the banana slightly.

Blend with an immersion blender (I call it the boat motor) until smooth.

This makes a smoothie that is cold and thick...the consistency of an ice cream shake. Drink in right away or pour it into a chilled stainless steel insulated coffee cup that you've reserved for non-coffee drinks. It will stay cold and creamy for an hour or so.