Not everyone can say their grandmother was a personal trainer into her 80s. Nor can they say that this same woman is now taking karate classes. But Leesburg native Carlene Thomas can. “I still idolize her,” she says. It’s a fact that lends insight into her career as a registered dietitian, recipe developer and new author—of a CBD “drinkbook” that applies her passion for dishing out punchy, efficient and anything-but-bland techniques for cooking healthfully with the wildly trending ingredient.
Thomas has been concocting recipes on her OhCarlene blog since 2011, which she began as a creative outlet after years of “science-heavy curriculum.” (She earned her bachelor’s in dietetics.) Her Healthfully Ever After LLC came next, in 2013. Her husband, Chris, her high school sweetheart, joined two years later. The duo consults; dreams up national marketing campaigns (for Food Network, Siggi’s, Dole x Disney); produces stop motion and videos; and originates recipes and correlating photography.
“We always go into recipe development with the mindset of education,” says Thomas, who believes that living in NoVA has inspired her craft, making her cook purposefully and respect the seasonal bounty. “You can find a five-ingredient, one-pot meal anywhere. … We can be of better service to people through ingredient/product scouting and trend forecasting.”
Enter CBD. Thomas initially began researching it for selfish reasons. “I was feeling overwhelmed … and I felt like I’d tried it all without the results I wanted,” she shares. Cannabidiol (aka CBD) is a natural compound of hemp and marijuana plants, and helps with pain reduction, inflammation and snoozing through the night. But Thomas thinks its biggest benefit is its ability to ease stress and anxiety. “The first time I tried it, I was shocked by how much it helped smooth over the peaks and valleys of silly stressors.”
So, the seed was planted: She put her research into a blog and, eventually, a book. CBD Drinks for Health, published in January through Simon & Schuster, outlines 100 CBD-oil-infused beverages that you can craft in your kitchen, all with the goal of expanding your knowledge—then helping you sip your way to wellness.
Case in point: The book begins by clearing up confusion about THC (“the one that gets you high,” the book explains) and cannabidiol (“the one that doesn’t”).
“Many people still believe every CBD oil is the same as THC,” says Thomas. “The second misconception is ‘every CBD oil is good,’ which could not be more false. We’re in the peak of CBD trickery. That’s why it’s important to purchase from brands that show you all of their testing verification information.” (A tip from Thomas: Wegmans is the best option for availability in NoVA; it has an ingestible CBD section.)
She and Chris (he photographs their creations) then pour out everything from javas (the Rosemary Lemonade Iced Coffee delivers an inventive, dairy-free jolt) to cocktails. The Frozen Aperol Spritz Shandy will cool you down as the weather heats up, and it includes hops to make hemp more palatable, notes Thomas. “Hops are a flavor most people understand. And since better aperitifs are becoming more common for Americans, we thought adding these elements together to make an elevated frosé was the kind of thing we’d want to serve at summer parties.”
All of the drinks can be made without CBD, though Thomas hopes the book will serve as a worthy source of information. “NoVA residents are more accepting than other regions but still incredibly cautious,” she says. Perhaps to our own detriment: While there’s a higher level of health consciousness here, she says, people are so driven by their jobs that they struggle to disconnect.
Maybe that will be the subject of her second book. In reality, she says she’d like to do a more food-focused tome with restaurant collaborations; she and her husband are currently working on graphic design projects, crafting recipes, shooting photos—and practicing archery. Well, she is, at least. “[It’s] my meditation,” Thomas says.
With all that, she’ll be on a natural high well into her 80s too. // CBD Drinks for Health ($16.99, Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster), available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Frozen Aperol Spritz Shandy
Gentian is a tall yellow flower from the French alpine meadows. It’s also the source of the bitter compound you’ll love in the Aperol used in this recipe. But aside from its unique taste, gentian also helps your body with digestion (just like CBD) and is also a possible anti-malarial medication. In this recipe, Aperol becomes a frozen slushy, topped with dry bubbles. The beer hops and citrusy notes make it bitter and sweet.
6 (11⁄4-CUP) SERVINGS
- 1⁄4 cup lemon juice
- 1⁄4 cup sugar
- 3 cups light wheat beer or Pilsner
- 1 cup Aperol
- 60 milligrams full-spectrum CBD oil
- 1 1/2 cups sparkling wine
- 6 orange wedges for garnish
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme for garnish
- Stir together lemon, sugar, beer and Aperol in a large container with a lid.
- Freeze at for at least six hours and scrape edges with a fork to create a granite-like, slushy texture. Freeze again for one hour, then remove from freezer.
- Scrape again. Freeze for one hour.
- Scoop 3⁄4 cup of frozen Aperol into six coupe glasses or tall tumblers, then top each glass with 15 milligrams of CBD.
- Top each glass with 1⁄4 cup sparkling wine, then garnish with one orange wedge and one sprig thyme. Serve immediately.
To make this CBD drink zero-proof, replace the beer with nonalcoholic light wheat or white beer; the Aperol with Sanbitter or Crodino (nonalcoholic bitter aperitifs); and the sparkling wine with nonalcoholic sparkling wine. When freezing, use fork to scrape edges once an hour.
Calories: 156 – Fat: 0g – Protein: 1g – Sodium: 6mg Fiber: 0g – Carbohydrates: 15g – Sugar: 9g
This post originally appeared in our May 2020 print issue. For more foodie finds, subscribe to our weekly Food newsletter.