Sometime last year, I decided that I should eat fruit and yogurt for breakfast. I think it was a book or an article lauding the nutritional value of yogurt--or maybe it was decrying carbohydrates—but for whatever reason, I abandoned my twenty year relationship with Raisin Bran.
The problem with fruit and yogurt was that it just wasn’t sweet enough, and I found myself adding a spoonful of jam to the mix. The other problem was that the change to my daily regimen yielded no benefits to weight loss or well being, despite the imposition of a modest gustatory cost.
So I decided to try smoothies, which have essentially the exact same ingredients, but have the added benefit of being a pleasure to consume. Shortly thereafter, the BG, when ordering her afterschool snack—which we often discuss on the way to the bus stop in the morning—or her bedtime beverage—which we enjoy as we sit down to NBA basketball most evenings—began asking regularly if a smoothie option were available. And my regular readers will no doubt recall that the Lunch of a Lifetime included one.
So now I make them almost every day, a blenderfull for my breakfast, Worldwide’s post-walk refresher, and either an afterschool snack or late night beverage for the BG. Over the last few months I have learned a few things about the process that I think worthy of sharing.
Frozen Fruit is Better
Some time when you have a few minutes, I encourage you to look carefully at the frozen section of your local supermarket. It is an Aladdin’s Cave of interesting items (who buys that?) and intriguing possibilities. In addition to the smoothie ingredients (more on that below) we all like ice cream (each family member is entitled to a pint or a box of novelties of their choosing per week); the OG likes soft pretzels (a regular part of her packed school lunch); the BG likes Morningstar veggie dogs, burgers, sausage links and bacon (yes, that’s right, vegetarian bacon. It looks and tastes kind of like the real thing, although, in my heart of hearts, I fear that the health consequences of the science required to create a vegetarian version of cured pork bellies are not yet fully appreciated); and I like frozen peas and chopped spinach, which help make it easy to complete pasta dishes, stir fries and curries.
On the fruit side, in addition to expediting the smoothie making process (no mangoes to peel and core), the gelid state makes for a better consistency and a perfect temperature. If I am using fresh fruit, I’ll throw in a few ice cubes to approximate the process. Alton Brown suggests putting your fresh fruit in the freezer the night before, but I just don’t have the wherewithal for that level of preparation.
Trader Joe’s has the best prices on frozen fruit, although Harris Teeter has four ounce packs of fruit purees (peach, strawberry, mango, pineapple, acai) from Brazil, and yesterday, while I was looking for hibiscus flowers at the local Mexican grocery store (I walked over during the 45 minutes between dropping the BG and her homeboys (the next door neighbours have two boys a year older and younger than she) at Tae Kwan Do and then driving them home) I found 14 ounce packages of frozen pureed papaya, mango, pineapple and guava at half the price of the Brazilian competitor. This is part of the reason why today’s recipe features the wonderfully fragrant, though disappointing guava, which we used to see all the time in the Maadi fruit markets on Road 9.
Add the liquids first to chop the fruit more easily
It’s counterintuitive, but it works. I start with the liquid (usually fruit juice), then add the yogurt, and then the solids. Run the blender for about 30 seconds on low speed, then 30 seconds on medium, and then a minute on high. You’ll know things are blending nicely, when you can see a little whirlpool at the top of the blender sucking stuff down to the bottom. Sometimes, if the mixture isn’t blending well, it’s because an air pocket is interfering. In this case, stop the blender, take off the lid, and wait for your baby to burp (remember those days?) Then finish the blending.
Sweeten the Pot
Worldwide likes her beverages a little sweeter than the BG and I, but even a sourpuss like me will sometimes need a little added sweetener. I generally use a tablespoon or two of honey, although, because the sugar ants will swarm to a sticky lid, and can even somehow squeeze their way into sealed jars, we keep our honey in the fridge, which makes it a little hard to pour. For this reason, I ordered some powdered honey from Amazon (it has the consistency of confectioners’ sugar).
The recipe below just sounded good to me this morning, and I was pleased with the results. The red berry smoothies have been the most popular, as well as the berry/peach and berry/mango blends. Blueberries, kiwis, bananas, papaya, watermelon, cherries and peaches don’t seem to be capable of standing alone, although they add nuance. The BG likes the all-fruit editions, and Worldwide likes the consistency that a ripe banana adds to the mix. I just like experimenting, which makes it hard to have a favourite. My choices this morning were guava, papaya and peach purees, frozen blueberries, mango chunks, raspberries and a berry medley (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries), a product which we have found to be a fantastic addition to our weekend favourite buttermilk pancakes (but that’s another post). I also had bottles of orange and cranberry juice in the fridge, as well as ”Mixed Berry” juice boxes (a 100% juice blend of apple, grape and berry juices). I chose the juice box, as, for some reason, its per unit cost is the lowest. Plus it’s the perfect size.
I measured fairly carefully this morning, since I had plans to blog about it later; usually I just do it by eye, knowing that I can add stuff at the end if the consistency or sweetness is not optimal. I also meant to use one of the first South Carolina peaches of the season, which had gotten a little overripe and needed to be cut up, but I forgot. Still, you can see the utilitarianism of such a plan.
Raspberry Guava SmoothiePour one mixed berry juice box (6.75 ounces) into the blender. Add 1 cup of plain yogurt, 1 cup of frozen raspberries, 1 cup of guava puree, 1 scant tbs of honey powder. Blend 30 seconds on low speed, then another 30 on medium speed, listening for the sound of the blender working on the fruit). Blend an additional one minute on high speed. Taste and add liquid, yogurt or sweetener as appropriate. Serve.