Monday, August 17, 2009

Yummy green smoothies!

It's been so great ever since we discovered these green smoothies - not only are they healthy for ya, they're easy and they help you use up your fruits and veggies! Anyhow, we've only been doing green smoothies for about a month and a half but I've learned a lot, so here's a bit of how WE do smoothies. :)

What's in our smoothies?
The simple answer is: whatever we have on hand. Really. :) So the smoothie is a bit different everyday. The kids usually take a sip and ask me 'What's in it today?' - haha! Oh, and we usually prefer organic fruits and vegetables, if possible and if we can afford it. But typically we have:

- fresh fruit (apples, pears, grapes, etc),
- greens (kale, baby spinach, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, etc),
- frozen fruit (mixed fruit, blueberries [esp if your kids don't like the green color! and for the antioxidants], berries, mangoes, etc),
- some kind of liquid (OJ, almond milk, coconut milk, etc)
- and sometimes, some extras (chia seeds, lucuma powder, agave nectar, etc).

And there is no special prep except to peel when necessary (citrus, non-organic fruits) and core. We also cut the fruit into smaller pieces, so it's easier for the blender to handle.

What blender do we have?
We have a Cuisinart SmartPower 7-speed that has a special 'Ice Crush' button. It's been doing a great job, though I do have to run it a while to get the smoothie a bit smoothier and less chunky. However, since we've been using it at least once a day, I think the motor is slowly dying. The Vitamix is on our wishlist! :) Anyone have a used one they want to sell? ;)

How much of the greens to add?
I think it all depends on your (and your families) taste bud. Typically, we use a handful or two of whatever greens I buy. [I have pretty small hands, though. :)] Now, the swiss chard seemed a bit bitter to me (but not to my family for some reason) so when I use that, I use less than a handful. It's always good to start with a little and then 'step it up a notch' when you think it still tastes good enough to drink a lot of it.

What about the 'extras'? Tell me more about those.
I like to put chia seeds in my smoothie for a protein boost and for a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids (mainly ALAs). Plus, the way they plump up when you put them in water is so neat - a good 'experiment' to do with the kids. :) Agave is simply a sweetener derived from the cactus plant. It has a low-gylcemic index and has no other taste except sweet. [Baking with it and cooking with it has been great.] I use it when there are a lot of citrus fruits in the smoothie and none of them are sweet. :) I've try to use just a bit to cut the tartness and the kids are pretty good with it, though my main point is to get the kids to drink it, so I make it just sweet enough for them. Lucuma is another sweetener and it's derived from the lucuma fruit. Some say it has a maple syrupy flavor but I haven't put enough in to tell. It does thicken the smoothie a bit if you put enough. I've tried honey in the past and have used raw honey when I could but I found that when it hits the cold smoothie, it is really hard to get it dispersed evenly to sweeten the entire smoothie and then I end up with honey globs on the side of the container. Maybe diluting it with some water first? I'm thinking about some green powders next but we'll see. :)

Any tips?
Here's what has worked great for us, esp if you don't have a high powdered blender. Put the fresh fruit, greens and liquid in first and blend them together. Then add the frozen fruit and the extras. It should blend a bit easier than putting it all in there or putting the frozen stuff on the bottom. Trust me on this one. :) Also, this order helps you put more frozen fruit in there because the volume is reduced after the fruits and greens are blended up. Actually, when you start putting more greens in, you can leave out the greens and just blend up the fresh fruits with the liquid before putting the greens in. Then blend up the greens and lastly, the frozen fruit. Hope that made sense. :)

After you finish divvying up the smoothie, rinse the blender before the smoothie dries on it. After it dries, it's much harder to clean off. The same goes for the cups and straws. Right after we're finished, we rinse everything off.

For the kiddies, I try to give them a fun straw to make it more fun to drink. I also try to put more of the fruits they like or ask them for their input once in a while. "Would you like blueberries or mangoes today?" We also play the 'Guess what's in the smoothie' game. :) We also alternate with the chocolate shake. [See below.]

Sometimes, when I blend the hydrated chia seed in there, it tastes a bit bitter to me (again, only to me). So I end up just mixing it in gently with a spoon after I finish making the smoothie and before I serve it.

If you find that your smoothie separates pretty quickly after making it (and you don't like that), try putting in more frozen fruit or more hydrated chia seeds.

Regarding prices for things, I would call around to see what your local health food store charges for the extras and then factor in gas (if it's far, taxes, shipping, etc) and figure out what's best for you. Or purchase a greater quantity with a green smoothie friend! :)

Any favorite non-green smoothie recipes?
I'll share one for now. This is a recipe based on the Chocolate Shake by Sarma Melngailis and Matthew Kenney.

Chocolate Shake
3 frozen bananas (mine are in chunks)
2 cups almond milk
3 T raw cacao powder (we're thinking maybe 4 next time)
1 t non-alcohol vanilla extract (or else it'll taste a bit like alcohol)
pinch of salt
small squirt of agave
cinnamon, to taste (option)

Blend everything together. Enjoy! It is soooo good! :)

Do I feel any different after drinking these almost daily for over a month?
I would definitely say that I've been feeling more energetic and have been wanting to eat healthier. Kev actually feels the same! :) Oh, and we've been more regular. Haha! Now, some might say that's all psychological but even if it is, I'm all for it. ;)

Hope this helps! And some of you reading this might have been drinking these smoothies longer than I have and have more tips to share. Please do! And feel free to post any questions or email me at :)


Jim said...

Very cool, thanks! Looking forward to trying it out with our next CSA shipment (hoping for more kale).

Kathy said...

What a great post... I never thought to use kale in a smoothie. I'll have to try that!