A few weeks ago I received this email from Adrianna…
On a blog called Simplifried she shares what she calls ‘elastic’ recipes – basically she explains the structure of a ‘thing’ (like a frittata) so that one can understand ‘how’ a recipe is made and then make endless variations. I’m not the best cook so this has been remarkably helpful to me. Would you be willing to do that for smoothies? I don’t understand how a smoothie goes together (when is a fruit sweet enough and when do you need to add a sweetener; is yogurt for texture or some other purpose; is ice for the liquid or the cold?). I’m still at the stage where I don’t like a lot of foods – would like to experiment with smoothies but I don’t ‘understand’ them. You always explain things in such a clear, rational way. Please???
Well, Adrianna, since you asked so nicely I’ll be happy too.
I need to start this post by letting you know I’m an experimenter by nature. I don’t believe there is a “right” way to prepare food. If it works for you, it works. I truly believe if more people adopted this attitude, more people would cook and experiment at home.
If you take a look at all my smoothie ideas you’ll see a bit of progression. Early ones, like my Quick Strawberry Banana Smoothie, used containers of flavored yogurt mixed with fruit. Simple, easy and tasty. More recently I’ve moved to adding greens and reducing the need for artificial sweeteners–like in the Clementine Green Smoothie that uses nothing but fruit and ups the nutritional content by adding spinach which surprisingly does NOT change the taste at all.
I can not emphasis enough that there is no “right” way to make a smoothie. Here’s my overall approach and thoughts on the base ingredients.
- The majority of my smoothies are fruit based. I normally use a combination of fresh and frozen. When using frozen it reduces the need for ice while making it easy to keep smoothie ingredients in stock without the fear of them going bad. I keep frozen strawberries, blueberries, and mango on hand as much as possible. Fresh bananas add a fabulous texture and any other fresh fruits can be added to taste. I’ve done melons, grapes, kiwis, oranges, pears, and apples. Anything works.
- You generally need to cover the fruit 2/3 of the way with liquid. This liquid could be milk (any kind), juice, water or even brewed flavored teas for a twist. The liquid is needed to blend the ingredients properly but depending on what you use it can help sweeten the smoothie as well.
- If you aren’t using frozen fruit, adding at least 5 ice cubes is needed for the cold smoothie taste and texture. I find it easier to blend the fruit with the liquid first, then re-blend adding the ice cubes.
- Adding greens is fairly new to me but what I’ve discovered is a few cups of spinach can easily be added to any smoothie with out changing the taste. It really only affects color. This is a great way to boost nutritional value if you can get over the color change. I’d recommend mastering a few fruit only smoothies first and then experimenting with baby spinach and kale.
- Adding a little sugar, honey, agave, or an artificial sweetener may be necessary especially if your fruit isn’t ripe enough. You can also sweeten by adding a dried date or a handful of raisins. Using overripe bananas also helps. I’ll purposefully buy extra bananas, let them get nice and ripe and then freeze them in chunks to add to my smoothies or to make this. ;) I would recommend making the smoothie without any additional sweetener, then taste and add as necessary.
- Other Optional Additions
- Yogurt can add a great creamy texture while upping the protein content. You could also use a good unflavored protein powder. I normally don’t do this but I know others who add flax seeds, oatmeal and other healthy ingredients to up the nutritional content.
Using your blender or Magic Bullet add all your ingredients making sure that there is enough liquid to cover at least 2/3 of the ingredients if not more. Even with that amount of liquid you may need to “work” the blender by stopping and stirring manually. If using the magic bullet you can simply shake the cup working the ingredients towards the blades.
Strawberry Kiwi Smoothie
Here’s an example smoothie I made yesterday for an after school snack.
- 3 cups baby spinach (64g)
- 2/3 cup froze strawberries (140g)
- 2 kiwis
- 1 tsp sugar (optional)
- 3/4 cups of water
I couldn’t fit all the ingredients in the bullet so I did it in stages. Note: I was too lazy to pull out the big blender.
Add the spinach, 1/2 of the strawberries, kiwis, and water to the bullet.
Blend until smooth then add the remaining strawberries and sweetener if necessary. (Note: this batch of frozen strawberries were very disappointing)
Blend again until smooth
Add a fun garnish (I’m finding this is helping with the color issue for the kid) and serve.
This smoothie was born because I happen to have kiwis. The strawberries I have in stock aren’t too sweet so I added a bit of sugar to help combat the bland taste. I find the best smoothie approach is using what I have on hand. I do try to keep frozen berries in the freezer and and bag of spinach in the fridge. Everything else I use is a reaction to what I have in stock, what’s about to go bad and/or having fun with flavors.
Please don’t fear the smoothie. It’s nothing more than blended fruit. You really can’t go wrong. Have FUN with it. :)