Blender vs Juicer

Blender vs Juicer - Under the Monkey Bars

People ask me all the time which I prefer: blender vs juicer. They say, “Which should I buy? Which one is healthier?” Both appliances will boost your fruit and vegetable intake and add more nutrition to your diet. It’s tough to eat six to eight servings a day without a smoothie or fresh juice. Let’s break it down to help you decide which appliance is best for you and your family.

Blending produce into a smoothie preserves the beneficial fiber of the fruits and veggies. You might hear nutritionists say that fresh smoothies are healthier for this reason. I find it easier to pack a smoothie to go because most recipes keep for several hours and sometimes even overnight. These mason jar tops are perfect for traveling with smoothies! 

Smoothies are a great way to hide veggies! Sometimes smoothies can be more fruit based, obviously depending on the recipe. Be mindful to add at least one veggie to every smoothie. Cucumbers taste so fresh in a smoothie and avocados will  make your smoothy really creamy. No excuses! You can add healthy fats, seeds and protein to your smoothies, like coconut oil, almond butter, chia seeds, ground flaxseed and natural protein powder.

Beware that smoothies can increase the sugar in your diet if you use sweetened yogurt, store bought juice, frozen yogurt, or ice cream. That’s called a milkshake, people!

Juicing can help you transition off store bought juices. This totally worked for us so it can be done! I haven’t bought juice at the store in 4 years. To maximize the nutrients of your fresh juice — especially green juices — drink them within 15 minutes of juicing. And fresh juice is best on an empty stomach, like first thing in the morning or 2 hours after a meal.

Juicing is better at getting larger quantities of veggies into your belly. I’ve never sat down and eaten a raw beet, 8 raw carrots, an apple, 2 celery sticks, 4 leaves of raw kale, and a slice of fresh ginger — but I can drink it in my juice! My monkeys love fresh apple and ginger juice when they’re sick. Much better than a bottle of chemicals (not pointing any fingers but you know what I’m talking about!).

You may have heard that some of the fiber is removed from the fruit or vegetable in the juicing process. This is true. However, you can use the fiber-packed pulp for other things. I don’t like to waste anything so I frequently use my juice pulp to bake, add to soups, rice, or meatballs. When you pay extra for organic produce, don’t waste it!

Which appliance will you will use more often? Don’t let a big blender or juicer take up precious space on your counter if you’re not going to use it. I juice about twice a week and make smoothies at least 4 to 5 times a week. I also use our blender to make sauces, soups, pesto, and pancake mix.

Which appliance will you be willing to clean? My blender is super easy to clean. Fill it half way with cold water, add a drop of soap, and let it run for a minute. It literally cleans itself! On the other hand, juicers are a little more complicated to clean. I rinse the juicer parts off immediately and then wash them by hand when I have a chance, usually a few hours later. It’s not hard to do, just takes extra time. I’m willing to clean it because fresh juice makes me feel so good.

What kind of blender should you buy? I can’t recommend one over another because I have not tested them all. But I can say that I totally love my Vitamix! I have this model. Make sure you buy one that fits under your counter (some don’t!). You can use a high-speed blender to make juice, but it will be very thick and pulpy even with extra ice and water.

What kind of juicer should you buy? I have a Breville Juicer. It’s one of the fastest on the market because of it’s wide feed tube. I can literally drop a whole apple in there — no chopping required! This high-speed juicer leaves less pulp in your juice (perfect for little monkeys!). You do loose a smidgen of the fiber and nutrients with a high-speed or centrifugal juicer, but I don’t have the patience for the slow or masticating juicers. A few of my friends have this juicer and love it. I’m willing to loose a bit of nutrition for speed. It’s literally only a small percentage.

The Verdict? Both appliances serve a purpose in our home. They allow me to mix it up on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis. We can make a breakfast smoothie one day, a green juice the next, and a chocolatey treat smoothie another day. Ask yourself: Which would you use more? Do you have room for both? Blending and juicing your fruits and veggies will make sure you get your six to eight servings per day and leave you feeling healthier than ever! You’ll have extra energy and less cravings. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Kale Summer Salad

Kale Summer Salad - Under the Monkey Bars

We love this Kale Summer Salad recipe on a hot day! If you pre-make the rice and chicken, you can throw it together without turning on the oven. Pack it up for lunch or dinner at the beach or bring it to a cookout. 

The combination of chicken, raw kale, brown rice, and sweet fruit in this recipe is nothing short of perfection. With this healthy Kale Summer Salad, you can check off almost all of the food groups with one simple, satisfying dish. 

The ingredients are really flexible and naturally gluten free. For vegans and vegetarians, try using tofu instead of chicken. The tofu will soak up the dressing and be really delicious. If you can’t have nuts, try pumpkin or sunflower seeds.

The original recipe calls for sweet red cherries, which have a really short season (like now!). We love sliced red grapes or chunks of crisp apples sometimes even more than the cherries. Pitting and cutting cherries are a lot of work!

Use left over roasted chicken or grill up some extra chicken a day or two in advance to save time. We love short grain brown rice with this salad, which I make in our rice cooker. It adds a hearty texture and flavor to the salad but can certainly be left out if you avoid rice or follow the paleo diet.

You’re going to love the garlic dressing in this recipe! I make it in my 15 year old Cuisinart food processor — no fancy high speed blender necessary. I typically double the dressing recipe and use it for salads or as a marinade for fish later in the week. Why not, right?

Look for lacinato kale at the farmers market, Whole Foods, or a natural market like the Natural Grocer. Curly kale or boxed baby kale will work in a pinch but it’s not as good as the thin ribbons of the flat leaf kale in this recipe.

Serve your Kale Summer Salad at room temperature. It keeps well in the fridge for up to three days, but it never lasts that long at our house. I hope you love it as much as we do. Cómelo todo!

Kale Summer Salad
Serves 4
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Prep Time
30 min
Prep Time
30 min
  1. 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  2. 1 garlic clove
  3. ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  4. Juice of 1 lemon
  5. 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
  6. 1 cup cooked brown rice
  7. 2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts torn into bite-sized pieces
  8. Fresh-ground black pepper
  9. 1 8 ounce can artichoke hearts: quartered, rinsed, and drained
  10. 2 cups chiffonaded lacinato kale (stems removed, leaves chopped into thin horizontal ribbons)
  11. ½ cup slivered or crushed almonds
  12. 2 cups cherries (pitted and halved), grapes or apples
  1. Make the garlic dressing: In a food processor, pulse the basil, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and sugar until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Assemble the salad: In a large bowl, mix together the rice, chicken, and kale. Toss with dressing until well coated. Gently fold in the artichoke hearts, almonds, and cherries. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Keep chilled until serving.
  1. Buy organic ingredients whenever possible.
Adapted from Saveur
Adapted from Saveur
Under the Monkey Bars

Banana Bowl

sliced banana - almond butter - chia seeds - shredded coconut - mini chocolate chips

sliced banana – almond butter – chia seeds – shredded coconut – mini chocolate chips

You wouldn’t believe how many bananas I buy each week. One time, the woman scanning my groceries asked me if I had monkeys at home. Actually I do! And one of them has a birthday today. Happy 7th Birthday to my Sweet Pea! 

Back to the bananas. I’m obsessed with anything in a bowl lately, probably inspired by my favorite lunch spot. One night after we got the monkeys to bed, Don and I were both starving. We each cut up a banana and added a few things to our bowls. The Banana Bowl was born!

A Banana Bowl is a healthy banana split. It’s a quick snack for any time of day — or even breakfast if you’re in a pinch. No need to measure. Just throw in what you have, mix it up, and enjoy! It’s so easy that little monkeys can even make a Banana Bowl themselves.

Here are some ideas to customize your Banana Bowl:
– Nut butter or sunbutter
– Fresh chopped berries
– Drizzle of honey or maple syrup
– Nuts: hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts
– Seeds: sunflower, hemp, chia, pumpkin
– Chocolate chips or a broken up chocolate bar
– Cinnamon
– Granola or Paleonola (Have you tried it?!? Mmmmm)
– Shredded coconut or Dang

I love that bananas are such a controversial fruit. It’s the sugar and carbs that give bananas a bad rap. But they are loaded with potassium, magnesium, fiber, vitamins B6, and vitamin C. And we LOVE them. Bananas are so easy to take on the go. And cheap! When we went gluten free, we joked that bananas were our new granola bars. So great to balance energy levels after a work out too.

How do you eat bananas? Try a Banana Bowl this weekend!

Mediterranean Ratatouille

Mediterranean Ratatouille - Under the Monkey Bars

Ratatouille is a French dish loaded with succulent Mediterranean vegetables. Think juicy tomatoes fresh off the garden vine, giant zucchini ready to split, and of course shiny purple eggplant.

This is an easy weeknight meal that makes a giant pot full of yum. I can practically promise you leftovers. Serve Mediterranean Ratatouille in a bowl on its own, with crusty bread, over risotto or even lentils. Maybe add a side of grilled chicken or make it a Meatless Monday! Ratatouille is super heart healthy, high in fiber, and low on the glycemic index. How could it not be with all of those veggies!

Speaking of veggies, do you have a CSA? We have been getting lots of eggplant with our weekly Boston Organics deliveries and I’m so glad I remembered this recipe. Save it for when you have more eggplant and zucchini than you know what to do with!

Ratatouille is a fantastic recipe for anyone with food allergies or sensitivities because it’s naturally gluten free, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, dairy free, soy free, and nut free. That’s a long list!! Keep this Ratatouille recipe in mind for your summer cook outs too. Or pair it with the Disney movie movie and maybe the monkeys will be more apt to eat it!

Bean will devour two bowls of Ratatouille whereas Sweet Pea asks for a small bowl without eggplant. I make a few dishes with eggplant and occasionally she will eat one or two pieces but she’s not a huge fan of the texture. I’ve always been flexible with the foods that the monkeys don’t like. However, I continue to serve them and never leave them out of a meal. I firmly believe that you have to try a food at least 10 times before you can say you don’t like it. And that’s not just for kids! Grown-ups too. Our palates change over time and you never know – you might surprise yourself!

Cómelo todo!

Mediterranean Ratatouille
Serves 6
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
45 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
45 min
  1. 1/4 cup olive oil
  2. 2 large onions, finely chopped
  3. 4 cloves garlic
  4. 1 large eggplant, cut into 1" cubes
  5. 3-4 medium peppers, cut into 1" chunks
  6. 4-6 small zucchini, cut into 1/4' slices
  7. 5-6 large ripe tomatoes, finely chopped, or 1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 1 teaspoon coconut or date sugar
  10. 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  1. Warm the oil in a large pot over medium high heat.
  2. When hot, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Add the eggplant and peppers and cook for 5 minutes longer, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the zucchini, tomatoes (with juice), salt, sugar, and oregano.
  5. Simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  6. Adjust the seasonings and serve hot or cold.
  1. - Use organic ingredients whenever possible.
  2. - Cooks beautifully in my dutch oven.
Adapted from Eat Up Slim Down Annual Recipes 2005
Adapted from Eat Up Slim Down Annual Recipes 2005
Under the Monkey Bars
Note: If you’re in the Boston area, definitely look into Boston Organics. We’ve been a customer since last year and have been impressed with the convenience and quality. I absolutely love choosing what we don’t want to receive for produce week to week; the “No List” is the best. Use this code for 10% off your first delivery: 8319bob6jc.

Chalupa: A Weeknight Winner

Chalupa Crock-Pot Recipe

If there’s one thing we’re all lacking, it’s time. I’m always searching for recipes that I can throw together for a no-fuss weeknight dinner. Chalupa fits the bill and is really inexpensive to make. It takes five minutes to put in the crock-pot in the morning and cooks all day without stirring.

I started making this Chalupa recipe years ago — even before we went gluten free. It fits every diet except vegan and vegetarian (obviously!). We’ve served this dish for picky friends who have scraped their bowls clean. The topping bar is such a hit! Kids can add their favorite veggies by the spoonful, making their own unique creation.

Here's Sweet Pea's cheesy bowl of Chalupa. She likes her toppings on the side.

Here’s Sweet Pea’s cheesy bowl of Chalupa. She likes her toppings on the side.

Seven simple ingredients make up this rustic meal. I always recommend using organic ingredients when possible. I buy bags of 365 organic beans at Whole Foods (don’t trust the bulk bins if you have food allergies). The recipe calls for pinto beans but I only had kidney beans when I first made it. We loved the rich pinkish broth, so I kept making it with the kidney beans until recently. The pinto beans create a different flavor with a earthy brown broth. Now I alternate between pinto and kidney, usually letting my monkeys choose.

I stock up on cans of Hatch diced green chiles at Whole Foods because the ingredients are cleaner than the mainstream brands at the grocery store. Buy local pock chops at your Farmer’s Market or try Whole Foods for organic. Frozen pork chops work really well in this recipe. I rarely remember to defrost the chops in advance and the dish comes out the same either way.

Chalupas are traditionally Mexican served in a fried shell, but this recipe is not spicy. You could definitely add a hot pepper for a kick. With its rustic flavor, a bowl of Chalupa is perfect for any season. Chalupa tastes even more delicious with fresh cilantro, tomatoes from the garden, and corn scraped right off the cob. We’re looking forward to some Chalupa nights on the patio with friends this summer!

Serves 8
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
  1. 2 pounds boneless pork chops
  2. 1 pound dry pinto or kidney beans (soaked overnight)
  3. 1 teaspoon oregano
  4. 1 tablespoon cumin
  5. 1 heaping teaspoon garlic powder
  6. 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  7. 1 can of green chiles
  8. filtered water to fill the pot, about 5 cups
Topping bar ideas
  1. avocado
  2. fresh cilantro
  3. grated cheddar cheese
  4. chopped tomatoes
  5. chopped peppers
  6. chopped red onion or scallions
  7. organic corn
  8. sour cream
  1. Soak the beans overnight.
  2. Drain the beans and put them in a 6 quart crock-pot.
  3. Add filtered water to cover beans plus 1 inch more.
  4. Add spices and green chiles. Top with pork chops. The chops don’t need to be totally covered with water. It will create more liquid as it cooks.
  5. Cook in crock-pot for about 8 hours on low.
  6. Before serving, shred the pork chops.
  7. Serve with your favorite toppings.
  1. - If you serve with corn chips, you may always have to serve with corn chips. Little monkeys have good memories!
  2. - This recipe feeds my family of four plus 6 cups of leftovers that go straight into the freezer in a glass container.
  3. - I use garlic powder so that my fingers don't smell like garlic at 8am. Fresh chopped garlic tastes great too.
Under the Monkey Bars
Cómelo todo!