Mastering The Art of The Smoothie   Leave a comment

Since July I’ve been drinking smoothies for breakfast most mornings. They are prescribed by my naturopathic doctor, although I had long been interested in the practice of making smoothies for breakfast. She has a few reasons for prescribing smoothies: 1) They can be a very healthy start to the day, 2) It’s easy to add supplements to a smoothie (except fish oil, that didn’t work so well), 3) If/when I get morning sickness the smoothie will be something I can work on getting/keeping down all morning while getting my vitamins and protein. Making a smoothie every morning has taken some getting used to, and it is not as time-consuming as I had been afraid. Actually, the most challenging part has been cleaning the blender every night.

My doctor’s original recipe was:

1 banana
1 cup frozen fruit
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp peanut butter
1 to 1-1/2 cups rice milk
1 scoop whey protein powder
1/2 cup granola (optional, for texture)
1 tsp fish oil

I quickly learned that I am not one of those people who can consume fish oil mixed with food (or straight for that matter). I also found that to me peanut butter does not taste good in a smoothie. Because of my focus on eating local seasonal produce, the banana is problematic as well. My husband eats a banana every day at work, so I can occasionally steal one from him when he skips a day, but a banana every day is not going to happen.

This was a forced experiment at first, but I’m getting the hang of it and now have my own recommendations for smoothie ingredients:

Fresh fruit. I hit on this during the summer when it dawned on my how silly it is to buy frozen peaches when fresh peaches are available at the farmer’s market. The bonus for me is that it gives me a way to eat fruit that I like (or don’t) that is just too big. I can’t eat an entire large peach or apple in one sitting, but I can drink it in a smoothie! So for me all summer my smoothies had a fresh peach base. This fall they have a fresh apple base. I figure that during the winter I’ll experiment with a fresh citrus base. And I’ll worry about spring later. We do have strawberries at the farmer’s market, but I’m concerned about pesticides and none of the vendors mark their strawberries as “pesticide free”. I tried mango once when we missed the farmer’s market, and it was interesting.

Frozen fruit. In addition to the fresh fruit base, I usually add some frozen fruit as well. Mostly berries like blackberries, strawberries, or cranberries, but pretty much anything could work. I’m thinking of trying frozen mango, since I think the “fresh” mango wasn’t really ripe. Sometimes for variety I do a frozen mixed berry smoothie with no fresh fruit at all.

Nuts. This substitutes for both the peanut butter and the granola in the original recipe. My favorites are almonds and walnuts. While I love snacking on pecans I have found them less than stellar in smoothies. The nuts provide protein and flavor; and since I put walnut pieces or slivered almonds in the blender instead of nut butter they also provide some chewy texture to the smoothie. Some people probably prefer a purely liquid smoothie, and in that case nut butters would work.

Liquid. Milk, juice, whatever. The primary purpose is to help the blender, flavor is the secondary purpose. My doctor is one of those people who thinks that adult humans should avoid milk, so she put milk alternatives in the original recipe. I personally like milk, but since I can’t really taste it in the smoothie and it is a common allergen I figure that I might as well use a substitute. Being allergic to soy, and already having almonds in many of my smoothies, I settled for plain unsweetened rice milk. When I make a peaches and cream smoothie, however, I use milk. Juice also works. This morning I used orange juice since I’m in cold-ward-off-mode. Cranberry juice also works really well.

Yogurt. The yogurt is for both health and texture. At first I planned on using Greek yogurt. Yes, sometimes I am trendy. But then I discovered that my regular Whole Foods carries a “French-style” (whatever that means) yogurt from a dairy north of San Francisco (it’s within the 100 mile radius from my house that is typically used to define “local”) that is certified organic, and comes in returnable quart jars. Perfect! Since the yogurt has a cream top it also means that every few days I get a super creamy smoothie, too.

Whey protein powder. I think this may be the secret to why after getting my doctors recipe I was able to successfully make a smoothie, whereas before they were decidedly not yummy experiments. My understanding is that most whey protein powder contains lots of sugar and/or artificial sweeteners, so be careful. The powder carried by my doctor’s office has a little bit of fructose (2 grams per scoop) and the balance of sweetness is from stevia. The reason that I think this is the secret ingredient is because it is in powder form and blends easily, providing thickening and sweetness. My previous attempts at sweetening included nothing (fruit alone just doesn’t cut it), honey (didn’t blend so it was mostly unsweetened with the occasional super-sweet clump), and maple syrup (might have been ok if it hadn’t been slightly fermented, and maple rum is a weird smoothie flavor).

Other stuff. For variety and excitement there are so many possible extra ingredients. Cocoa is good. So are raw rolled oats (think peaches and cream oatmeal in a liquid form). Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger can add a little extra flair. I might try ground flax seeds. I saw a recipe for an apple spinach smoothie that I do not think I’m going to try. But if vegetable juice is your thing, why not?

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Posted November 16, 2010 by mayakey in food, health, pre-pregnancy

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