My smoothie secrets, including how to make cashew milk

by Katie on March 28, 2012

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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.

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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!

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Cadry March 28, 2012 at 11:17 pm

I completely agree with you on cashew milk. Of all of the homemade milks I’ve made, it’s definitely my favorite. It doesn’t need to be strained, it has a great flavor, and the thick viscosity is wonderful.

I couldn’t help but admire the lids on your Ball jars! Where did you find them?

Reply

Katie March 29, 2012 at 11:07 am

Hi Cadry – Amazon.com! Just search for Ball jar lids.

Thanks for your comment. :)

Reply

Ali March 29, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Hi Sis! I’m admiring the dish towel in the photo – did that use to be mom’s? :) I LOVE smoothies but will tend to not make them unless I have bananas. Never thought to freeze them for an ongoing supply. Will try that! I’m into blueberry-banana smoothies now, but I’m so excited for strawberry season in a couple of months for those fresh local strawberry smoothies. When they are freshly picked, I love a simple frozen drink with only strawberries, o.j., ice, and a little sweetener. Yum!

Reply

Katie April 22, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Sounds delicious, Ali! I love the blueberry-banana combo as well. We are just starting to get blueberries here. Anyway, I think May gave me the dishtowel but I’m not totally sure.

Reply

Kevin April 7, 2012 at 10:19 am

I really love your blog and while I’ve only stumbled onto it recently I’ve already used it for reference in my cooking a bunch. In fact you’ve inspired me to write my own food blog. This most recent post is really making me want to invest in a blender. Thanks for all the great ideas and the inspiration!

Reply

Katie April 22, 2012 at 10:16 pm

That’s great, Kevin. Definitely get a blender! Good luck.

Reply

Laura April 22, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Hi Katie,

Do you have an opinion on the “green powders” that are available to mix into smoothies? I don’t like the taste of fresh greens blended into my smoothies, yet I’m doubtful of the nutritional value of these powders.

Thanks,

Laura

Reply

Katie April 22, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Hi Laura – There are so many different kinds out there. Generally speaking I’m not into powders (since I wrote this post I’ve even gotten out of the habit of using that nutritional shake mix I mentioned). I just like eating whole foods. But if you check out the ingredients and feel like it would complement your diet, why not experiment?

I just discovered maca powder which is supposedly a “superfood.” Got some at Whole Foods. It’s really strong tasting so you can’t use that much. But I enjoy experimenting.

Reply

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