Now that the temperature has consistently been hitting 60 degrees, I couldn’t help but write about smoothies. Warm weather and cold beverages – enough said.
The virtues of smoothies: easy to make, easy to eat, easy on the wallet, easy to get creative.
My brother often says he doesn’t know how to make a smoothie. In my opinion, there’s no “knowing” how to make a smoothie – it’s all experimentation. Yes, recipes are good indications of appropriate proportions and resources for coming up with new flavor combinations. But, as is arguably true of all cooking and baking, the great thing about making your own food is molding a dish to fit your preferences; chances are, recipes can’t yield your ideal smoothie, but they can serve as roadmaps for your blending endeavors.
It’s hard to screw things up if you take it slow – don’t dump everything into a blender all at once and hope for the best, especially if you’re experimenting with new/intense flavors. Instead, start with the “least offensive,” for lack of a better term, ingredients (bananas, strawberries, yogurt, ice). Pour a little bit of liquid (milk, orange juice, coconut water, coffee, water) over these ingredients to facilitate blending. After you give this base a whirl, gradually add more liquid and anything you’re less sure about. Patience and sampling eliminate the need for fixed quantities.
Following are some ingredient ideas for getting your smoothie on:
Avocado: can be used in place of banana for creaminess.
Uncooked oatmeal: I haven’t tried this yet. Some recipes say to put the oats through a food processor or spice grinder before adding them to your smoothie, others say to just throw them in whole.
Nut butters: protein and texture! But use sparingly, they can be overwhelming.
Spinach or kale: takes some getting used to but ultimately great.
Ginger: very refreshing but quickly overpowering. Proceed with caution!
Frozen fruit: peel and chop overripe bananas (or any other fruit) and put them in the freezer! Alternatively, buy frozen mangos from Trader Joes – they are consistently sweet and great in smoothies.
Dates or raisins: great natural sweeteners.
Non-dairy milks: soy, almond, and other non-dairy milks can make for better smoothies than dairy milk because they tend to be sweeter.
Vanilla extract: adds an interesting, subtle kick when used sparingly.
Cinnamon: makes everything better.
Iced coffee: coffee, banana, chocolate, and yogurt is a diabolical combination.
Pumpkin: canned pumpkin is not sweet and available year-round. If you’re a pumpkin fan, it makes for an interesting change of pace. In my experience, it pairs well with non-dairy milks, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and something sweet.
Seeds: many recipe websites claim that chia seeds are a good thickening agent while flax seeds add some protein and texture.
Following are some examples of how lesser used ingredients have been incorporated into smoothies. But I encourage you not to follow these recipes to a tee – trust your palate instead!
1 frozen banana
1 heaping cup frozen strawberries
1/3 cup steamed beets (I used two about half a large beet)
1 heaping tablespoon flax seed meal
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup arugula, tightly packed
1 tablespoon walnuts
1/2 ripe pear, cored and peeled
1 quarter-size piece of fresh ginger, peeled
2 to 4 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt (to taste)
3 ice cubes
1 cup water
5 to 6 large kale leaves
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
1 large banana
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons honey
Juice of 1/2 lemon
This last recipe recommends making the smoothie ahead of time, pouring it into a muffin tin, and freezing it for later use, a great idea!
Cover photo source.