Summer is almost here, and soon we’ll be inundated by ripe peaches, boysenberries, blueberries, and blackberries. I love going to the farmer’s market and falling in love with a huge watermelon, a flat of apricots, or a cantaloupe. I can’t pass up a kiwi, and I love it when friends load me up with too many pears. All are perfect smoothie-fodder.
If you’ve never had a smoothie, it’s simply a fruit-based beverage prepared in a blender. They range from high-fiber and healthy to completely decadent, high-fat, and sugary.
I usually make smoothies for breakfast, since it’s a good way to get fruit, fiber, protein, and vitamins all in one easy package. When I worked in downtown Seattle, I’d go out with coworkers and order a smoothie for an afternoon pick-me-up. In the evening, a smoothie can substitute for a light dinner or be served as dessert, with or without alcohol.
Although there are thousands of published smoothie recipes and entire smoothie cookbooks, I’ve never followed a recipe to make one. Creating a smoothie is an art, not a science. I just look at the ingredient lists for ideas, and then I toss in a little of this and a little of that, blend it, and taste the result. It’s kind of like making soup.
Here are the four components of a delicious fruit smoothie.
The old standby is the yellow Cavendish banana, which you can use at any stage of ripeness (a good way to use up over-ripe bananas). Strawberries are also common, as are other berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Peaches, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon are all good, and speaking of melons, smoothies are a great way to use up excess (and there’s always excess!) watermelon. Tropical fruits are divine; consider mango, papaya, pineapple, guava, or passion fruit.
While you’re cleaning and cutting up the fruit, consider putting some in a bag in the freezer. When you’re in a hurry, you can toss a handful of the frozen pieces directly in the blender without thawing it.
In the winter, when you run out of frozen fruit, try making a smoothie with applesauce or even canned fruit.
You’ll need some sort of liquid to turn your fruit into a beverage. Yogurt is my preference, but I’ve also tried milk, cream, soymilk, and water. You can also use tea (lemongrass tea, spiced chai, or peppermint tea add a lot of flavor) and coffee.
I keep fruit juice on hand just for smoothies — try mango nectar, orange juice, or pineapple juice. Pomegranate and grape juice are loaded with antioxidants and great for your health. If you’re trying to pack in extra calories, use coconut milk or chocolate milk.
I often add a splash of lime or lemon juice, but only if there’s no milk. A curdled smoothie is an ugly thing.
I have a habit of gilding the lily, throwing in ingredients that give my smoothies a little extra zing. My favorite are ginger and lime zest prepared on the Micro-Plane grater.
Sometimes I throw in cinnamon, another powerful antioxidant, or a tiny pinch of cayenne. You can also add chocolate syrup or powder, coffee, honey, sugar, maple syrup, and any flavor of sugar syrup, the kind used to flavor lattés. If you have an herb garden, try mint, rosemary, or lemon thyme.
One class of flavorings can elevate your smoothie to a whole new plane: Extracts. The old standby is vanilla, featured in the Orange Julius: Orange juice, sugar, ice cubes, and vanilla. Other extracts can also add a huge amount of flavor without changing the texture. Try a few drops of lemon, coconut, or orange.
To turn your fruit smoothie into a meal-on-the-go, add some protein. We’ve used protein powder, cottage cheese, sour cream, tofu, and cream cheese. Toasted, ground nuts or natural peanut butter are also delicious. Boost your energy level by adding nutritional yeast, chock-full of B vitamins, flax seeds, or powdered vitamins.
If your fruit is not frozen, you can toss in a few ice cubes to give the smoothie a nice thick texture. You can even add sherbet or ice cream, although that sounds suspiciously like a milkshake instead of a smoothie.
Assembling Your Smoothie
It doesn’t get much easier than this: Clean the fruit and cut into chunks. Pour the liquid into the blender, add the fruit, flavorings, and additions, and blend. Stop and taste it, and adjust the flavorings. I often find I need to add more zing in the form of lemon juice, ginger, or a teaspoon of sugar.
If the result is too thick, add more liquid, 1/4 cup at a time. If it’s too thin, add crushed ice or more fruit and blend it some more.
You can even make a smoothie without a blender at all! Choose soft fruit, like very ripe bananas and berries, and put it in a large, deep pot or bowl. Pour in plenty of liquid, roll up your sleeves, and mash the heck out of it with a potato masher. I ran across this solution at the Oregon Country Fair, where an outfit called LuLu’s Smoothies was producing hundreds of gallons of smoothies without electricity. Their secret? Young, healthy employees with strong arm muscles!
- If you need a little more direction on what to put in the blender, see my list of Smoothie Ideas.
- A lassi is a kind of smoothie from India. I wrote about yogurt and lassis back in January. Try a Creamsicle Lassi or a Pink Lassi.
- In Brazil, you can buy a suco on many street corners. It’s their version of a smoothie, made from one of the over 75 varieties of fruits that grow in Brazil.
- If all this is too healthy for you, skip the fruit and just make a milkshake (includes recipes for vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and cookie).
- For a series of life’s lessons learned through my blender, see My Blender, My Teacher, on Adventures with Meps and Barry.