Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The Darling Devoted Husband has a night class tonight, and I'm battling a cold, so I skipped making dinner this morning. Instead, perhaps this is a good time to talk about one of my favorite foods: smoothies!
They're cold and refreshing in the summer, a fast breakfast or snack that you can eat on the go, and a good way to get your daily fruit dose and even sneak some calcium in (especially if, like me, you hate drinking milk).

Like fancy coffee creations, smoothies are an expensive addiction if you buy them from a restaurant--and cheap to make at home. Jamba Juice, Keva Juice, and all those other awesome smoothie places make delicious smoothies at undelicious prices. But they're fast, easy, and cheap to make at home. You don't need any fancy equipment, just a blender, glass, and spoon. You don't need to cook anything or wait for anything. Smoothies are awesome. The end.

Smoothies at smoothie stores are sometimes super delicious because they put ice cream, sherbet, and/or extra sugar in them, pretty much disqualifying them from health food status. When you make them at home, you know what's in them, and at least if you're adding ice cream you have nobody to blame but yourself.

My smoothies are simple. I like to keep frozen fruit on hand, since it keeps for a long time, and I know I sort of tend to go through smoothie-free phases--it'll get cold, or my schedule changes, or whatever. Fresh fruit rots pretty quickly if you don't use it up, for some reason. Plus, frozen fruit gives you that nice cold smoothie taste and texture without needing added ice. Sometimes I mix fresh and frozen fruit, depending on what I have on hand. Typically I have in the freezer mango chunks and some sort of berry. The DDH is a purist and will only eat smoothies made of one sort of fruit, preferably mango (he also will only eat one ice cream flavor at a time, which I don't get at all). I like to mix more than one flavor, though I'll stick with plain mango if I'm wearing anything likely to be stained.

Dump the fruit in the blender, then add yogurt. I like using plain yogurt, since there's no sweetener in it, but sometimes I use other fruit flavors to get that nice fruit mix or vanilla to add a bit of sweetnes. Greek yogurt adds extra calcium and a creamier, yogurtier flavor than regular yogurt, but is also significantly more expensive, so I go back and forth. If it seems like I'll be making a lot of smoothies or have some other uses for it (plain yogurt is a good substitute for buttermilk in baking recipes, for instance, especially pancakes), I'll buy one of the big containers and just spoon out what looks like enough; if I'm facing a possible smoothie dry spell (or they're on sale really cheap, or I want some special flavors) I'll get the little 6 oz cups and use one of those per smoothie.

Finally, add a bunch of juice. The fruit-to-juice ratio determines whether your smoothie will be thick and in need of a spoon or thin and slurpable. I buy frozen juice concentrate (still try to stick with 100% juice, though) for the same reason I buy frozen fruit; I can mix up a pitcher when I need it and usually if I don't use it all for smoothies the DDH will drink it. If I have premade juice on hand for whatever reason (if it's on sale, or for a particular flavor, or so the DDH can drink it), I'll use that. Apple usually will take a backseat to whatever fruit you use; orange adds that citrusy flavor; other flavors add their own flavor. Right now I have apple cranberry juice, which is good. We have some apple cherry in the fridge, which is really sweet.

Then you just blend it all together until it reaches the desired consistency. Pour it out, fill the blender with soap and water, run it on low for 10 seconds, rinse it out, and stick it in the dish drainer to dry, and look! that's the extent of your cleanup.

Good smoothie fruits:
*Fresh or frozen mango
*Fresh or frozen strawberries, blueberries, raspberries (blackberries are really seedy)
*Bananas (you can freeze bananas that are starting to go (in slices or whole, peeled) and they'll keep for another couple weeks)
*Citrus fruits tend to be stringy; I'd suggest getting a citrus juice to add that flavor instead
*Apples (but you've got to core them and cut them up, and it's sort of a strange texture if you use a lot of them)
*Fresh or frozen melon (canteloupe, honeydew, watermelon)
*Really most fruit that isn't super seedy or stringy

Other things to put in smoothies:
*Vegetables. You can make vegetable smoothies (like frozen V8), but you can also sneak in some veggies to a fruit smoothie. Carrots, squash, and green beans are the things I normally add.
*Stick in some banana peel (wash it first). Make sure it gets well blended, and you'll get some extra banana flavor (it's a little sour) and an extra dose of fiber.
*Almonds or other nuts for a protein boost.

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