Grounding Green Bowl with Pulses / by lee tilghman

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Ahh, green smoothie bowls. How I love thee. Many times, this deep color scares people away, but I say, "Hey, naysayers! Give this bowl a try. I promise you won't be disappointed, you might even fly towards the sky!" Or something.

The beautiful blue-green color of this bowl in particular comes from a special ingredient called Spirulina. Spirulina, a blue green algae derived from the sea, has been named a superfood for its nutrient-dense components. Spirulina is a complete protein. It contains vitamins such as B-1, B-2, B-3, B-6, and B-9, vitamin C, D, A, and E. It's also rich in potassium, calcium, copper, and iron. Spirulina has a very distinct taste, so if you are a first timer, I suggest starting with a very small dosage. Not everyone is a fan of the flavor right off the bat. However, when you mix it with things like bananas, oats, and beans like I did in this smoothie, I think you will be very pleased. 

The 'smoothie bowl', in general, as a concept, is much thicker than you average smoothie. I am always seeking new and innovative ways to thicken up my smoothie bowls. I've tried using avocado, coconut meat, and bananas. But most recently, I've been adding pulses to my smoothie bowls. What are pulses, you ask? Good question! Put simply, pulses are an annual leguminous crop yielding from 1 to 12 seeds. Examples of pulses are dry beans like mung, navy, pinto, white, lentils, chickpeas, and more.  You've probably been eating pulses your whole life. Black beans in your burrito? That's a pulse. Hummus? Made from pulses! Lentil salad? That's a pulse, too!

2016 has been declared the Year of the Pulses by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. As 2013 was the year of quinoa, 2015 has been declared the Year of the Pulses. This is super exciting, since the United Nations chose pulses because they are leguminous plants that have nitrogen-fixing properties which can contribute to increasing soil fertility and have a positive impact on the environment. Adding pulses to your diet is not only good for your body, but the environment, too. Pulses play a large role in sustainable food production and have a very low water footprint. And for someone who is living in a drought crisis city (Los Angeles), that's very important to me.  As a major source of plant-based protein, pulses are a wonderful addition to any dish- whether it be sweet or savory.

I now invite you to take the Pulse Pledge with me. By taking the Pulse Pledge, you agree to eat pulses of any kind once a week for 10 weeks to decrease your carbon footprint and start practicing more sustainable eating routines. Not to mention, give your health a kickstart, too, as each 1/2 cup serving contains NINE grams of plant-powered protein. 

If you want to know more about pulses, take this quiz here. Get to know them, because soon, you'll be seeing them pop up on every menu. Try adding pulses to your smoothie bowl- it's a wonderful way to add protein and it thickens your bowl up.

For this recipe,  I soaked my dry beans overnight and then cooked them over the stove (instructions below). Dry beans are available in the bulk section of most health food stores. I always try to soak and cook my own pulses since they are fresher and better tasting that way. However, if it's unavailable to you, you can always use their canned counterparts. 

Ingredients

Base:

  • 1 frozen banana, cut into 2" pieces (always peel before freezing!)
  • 1/4 cup almond milk or other non-dairy milk alternative
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup white beans, soaked for 8-12 hours and rinsed (navy works fine!)
  • 1 tsp spirulina

Toppings:

  • fig
  • almonds
  • granola
  • pistachio
  • blueberry
  • goji berries
  • mulberries
  • bee pollen
  • energy bar
  • coconut chips
  • white chia seeds
  • cashews
  • sunflower seeds

Instructions

  1. Bean Prep: After they have been soaking for 8-12 hours (overnight is best), rinse them thoroughly. Place into a large pot and cover with 2" of water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to medium-low heat and cook for 20-30 minutes or until tender (easily pierce with a fork). Now, your beans are finished! Place 1/4 cup of the beans aside for your smoothie bowl. You can set the rest of the beans in the refrigerator. 
  2. Before blending, take out all your toppings and lay them out neatly. Prep and chop up any necessary fresh cut fruit ahead of time for easy bowl building.
  3. Add your frozen banana, oats, spirulina, 1/4 cup cooked beans, and almond milk into a high speed blender such as a Vitamix or a Ninja. You'll need a good blender since your base is going to be pretty thick to support your toppings. Blend for 3-4 minutes until you see the oats completely blend into the smoothie. If necessary, stop the blender every 30 seconds to push down ingredients into the blades to ensure you're blending everything. 
  4. Pour your smoothie into a bowl and now it's time to top! Place your toppings onto the bowl in any way you please. I like to put my fresh fruit down the middle, and then add my nuts and seeds from there. If you don't have any/all of the toppings I listed above, that is totally fine. Use whatever you have on hand- feel free to add to or remove from my list, it's just meant to be a general list of ideas. 

This post was sponsored by @USAPulses & @PulseCanada.