I am a chronic over-buyer of fruit at any time of year, but in the summertime I really go crazy. In our large household, the best fruit disappears the minute I cut it, leaving only sticky fingers. But when fruit gets overripe or just plain tired, I pile it into the blender with juice, milk and ice and make a fruit smoothie. It’s a treat for the kids – they easily drink more fruit than they would eat – and it uses up fruit that might otherwise go to waste.
You won’t find a smoothie at a smoothie shop as healthy as you one you would make at home. Jamba Juice is fun, but many of its offerings are sherbet, frozen yogurt and juice, with only a bit of fruit thrown in. Smoothie-making at home endlessly varied, depending on what fruit, juice, yogurt or other ingredients you happen to have handy.
I think the key to a good smoothie is balancing out the acidity of fruit and juice with a bit of creaminess. I use whole milk, but you could also use soy milk, nut milk or coconut milk. Yogurt adds creaminess as well as extra thickness, and even soft tofu works as a non-dairy alternative.
A banana serves double duty in smoothies, adding both sweetness and body. I buy more bananas than we can eat just so some get overripe for smoothies. For the banana-averse, mangoes, pears and avocado contribute a smooth texture as well.
Depending on the sweetness of your fruit and whether or not you add a neutral element such as tofu or a tart element such as plain yogurt, you may need a touch of sweetener. I like using maple syrup, which is not as strong a flavor as honey. Any flavored yogurt will bring plenty of sweetener with it.
A great smoothie doesn’t have to be ice-cold (mango lassis, anyone?), but ice is an essential ingredient. Aside from making a refreshingly cool drink, ice simultaneously lightens the flavor and thickens the texture. If you are using frozen fruit, you may need only a little ice or none at all. But if you are using fresh fruit, a good amount of ice will make a nicely thick, frosty drink.
An industrial-strength blender, such as Vitamix or Blendtec, can handle cool tricks like pulverizing greens into smoothies. With spinach and kale, it’s the color, not the surprisingly mild taste, that gives away the leafy addition. If you’re trying to hide a green smoothie from kids, the only fruit pigmented enough to disguise the color is blueberries.
Don’t try veggies in a regular blender, though. One stringy experience, and your kids will forever approach smoothies with deep suspicion.
I’m suspicious of protein powders due to the high level of processing and significant levels of artificial sweetener. Most protein powder is from dehydrated whey, a byproduct of cheese production. I’m careful about the milk I buy – cows in this country are pumped up with growth hormones and antibiotics – so I’m particularly wary about buying a concentrated milk product. Powdered whey can add a nice creaminess to smoothies, but be careful to look into quality.
Give me your tired, your poor, your excess fruit…
Add juice, milk and ice. I get crushed ice from my fridge to help give my non-industrial blender a head start. I have a Vitamix in my dream kitchen in Ohio, but back to that 80/20 rule, a solid regular blender gets 80% of the smoothness of Vitamix at 20% of the price.
Four cups of liquid vitamins, coming up!
The kids are as eager as if I’d lit up a “hot doughnuts now” sign. But this kind of treat I’d gladly serve every day.
An easy way to use up less-than-perfect fruit. Kids readily drink more fruit than they would normally eat.
- Banana, preferably very ripe (1 banana works with 2-4 cups other fruit)
- Fruit, peeled if necessary and cut (strawberries, peaches, pineapple, oranges, grapes, mangoes, etc)
- Orange juice (about 1/2 cup for every 2 cups fruit)
- Milk (about 1/4 cup for every 2 cups fruit)
- Ice (3-4 cubes for every 2 cups fruit)
- Maple syrup or other sweetener (optional)
- Vanilla extract (few drops optional)
- Add fruit to blender jar, putting juiciest fruit in first. Add juice, milk and ice. Blend well.
- Taste and add a touch of maple syrup or vanilla if desired.
- Liquid substitutes: other milks (soy, coconut, nut), other juices or yogurt.
- If you don’t like the taste of bananas, mango, pear or avocado add a similar smoothness.
- If I’m using a lot of acidic fruit, such as orange or pineapple, I’ll use more milk and less juice.
- If you use frozen fruit, you’ll want to use less ice or maybe none at all. Frozen fruit may also require additional liquid.
- Protein powders, commonly made of whey protein, are a popular add. I’m not a fan of the taste – most have significant amounts of artificial sweetener – and am skeptical about the processing involved and the quality of the whey that goes into it.
Here’s the link to a printable version.