I typically write about meals here, but it’s also important to have healthy snack ideas for those between-meal cravings. Come springtime, I break out the blender and am all about the smoothies. Smoothies are a very seasonal thing for me. I don’t have any desire to make them unless it’s 80 degrees or higher out, which it has been lately.
I used to think smoothie making was beyond me. I had all these preconceived notions why I couldn’t make a smoothie – my blender wasn’t powerful enough, I didn’t know what to put in there or in what proportions…you get the idea. Finally I found a basic recipe, and that got me going. So I offer this basic recipe to you for a refreshing smoothie:
1 cup non-dairy milk
1/2 frozen banana
4-6 strawberries (or an equivalent amount of any other berry)
1 teaspoon agave syrup
Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Voila! Serves 1. One of my favorite variations to this recipe is to add a tablespoon and a half of cocoa powder (either in addition to or as a substitute for the berries) for a delicious chocolate smoothie similar to the photo above.
But let me go beyond this basic recipe and tell you some of my top smoothie-making secrets.
1. The blender you have will do just fine.
Of course, you need a blender. However, you don’t need one of those fancy Vitamix blenders that will set you back $500. I have a regular KitchenAid blender that I got as a wedding gift a couple years ago, which works well. I believe it was in the $100-$130 range. The more powerful blender you have the better, but my point is that you don’t need to spend a fortune to start making smoothies.
2. Choose any non-dairy milk you like.
Sometimes I use water as a base for my smoothies if I want something light. But I generally prefer creamy smoothies, and for that you need some non-dairy milk. When it comes to store-bought non-dairy milk, I prefer soy milk. But in general, store-bought non-dairy milks disappoint me. I don’t love the flavor or the added sugars and preservatives and who-knows-what-else they put in there.
My solution? Homemade cashew milk. Raw cashew pieces usually aren’t too expensive in the bulk foods section. Here’s how I make the milk:
1 cup raw cashew pieces, soaked in water for 2 hours
4 cups water
Drain the cashews. Add them to the blender with 1/2 cup water. Blend until smooth – usually about a minute on the highest speed your blender has. Add the rest of the water. Blend again. Enjoy!
Making fresh cashew milk takes literally 5 minutes (not including the soaking time, but that’s super easy). Some people suggest straining the milk through a cheesecloth as a final step, but I’ve found that to be unnecessary. If you want to sweeten it, you can add some agave or other sweetener. But I like to make my cashew milk plain, and I can add sweetener to taste when I make my smoothie.
Cashew milk lasts 3-4 days in the fridge. Mason jars are great for storage.
I thought my backyard was a nicer backdrop to the photo than my fridge.
3. Keep frozen bananas on hand.
There are no rules in smoothie making, and your bananas don’t need to be frozen. But I find it convenient to freeze half-sized pieces of bananas when they’re ripe. Then I don’t have to worry about having ripe bananas when I want my smoothie. You can do this with other fruit as well.
4. Smoothies are the perfect vehicle for protein powder or other nutritional shake mixes, if that’s how you roll.
I have been experimenting with getting my supplements in smoothie form lately. Fortunately, this has coincided with Vega One nutritional shake mix being on sale at Whole Foods. I’ve tried all three flavors. Chocolate is my favorite, followed by chai. I did not care for the berry flavor.
This has been my afternoon snack for the past couple of weeks. I take 1 cup of my homemade cashew milk in a mason jar to work, along with one serving of Vega One mix in a packet or container. Apologies to my colleagues at Launch Pad who might be wondering what that strange looking jar is in the fridge. Come snack time, I mix up my shake.
If you happen to be home at snack time and can make a fancier smoothie with other goodies in your blender, more power to you.
5. Want to make a green smoothie?
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that you can make a “green” smoothie, considering they seem to be all the rage these days. For example, you can add a big handful of baby spinach into the basic smoothie recipe above. It adds extra nutrition, and you can hardly taste the spinach. Some people even add kale or other greens or veggies.
Honestly, I don’t enjoy green smoothies that much as I prefer my greens lightly cooked. But I encourage you to give it a try if it interests you. For this I will admit that it is handy to have one of those super-powerful expensive blenders if you want to make green smoothies with hardier greens like kale. With regular blenders like mine, the more tender greens such as baby spinach work best.
So those are my top smoothie secrets. Got any of your own to share? What are your favorite smoothie flavors and ingredients? Please share in the comments below. Cheers!