Since a few of you asked for smoothie recipes, I thought I'd do a post about Smoothies. I have a some hints about techniques and some "tricks" I use to make my shakes fulfilling AND filling.
First off I want to mention that my shakes are either my breakfast, or a tide-me-over-so-I-don't-eat-my-arm tool. Therefore I do try to get as much fluffy bang for my calorie buck as physically possible. In other words...low cal, but very filling. My shakes NEVER exceed 350 cals, period. Usually they are under 250 or even less, before I add the toppings (infinite possibilities there), and they are enormous. I can give you some ideas if you want to beef up your shakes but my shakes are pretty much huge fluffy containers of air, ice and poofy protein. Often they are like two shakes rather than one- they are that voluminous.
I'll make my morning/breakfast smoothie and stick it in the freezer while I have a pre-shake green drink that is really more of a juice (recipe another time) - and my coffee. If I have time, I'll eat one of the smoothies with a spoon out of a bowl- with a topping and some nut butter. If I'm running out the door for a class, then the shakes go with me in a couple of to-go containers in a cooler and they get consumed before and after my workout, depending on my hunger level. They fill me up and satisfy me. They wouldn't do the same for everyone- so modify as you see fit!
Don't get scared but my shakes usually contain some or all of the following:
- Protein powder
- Thickening Gums
- Sugar-Free Fat-Free Pudding (just a sprinkle)
- Fruit or even veggies (Kale, red bell pepper)
- Nut Butter (optional, and often used as a topping on a spoon)
- Flavor Extract (a few drops)
- Crystal Light (a samll sprinkle)
- Sugar-Free Torani Syrup
- Ice- usually almost as much volume as water
- extras like cooked, then frozen wheatberries, or cacao nibs
Water and ice
I use a lot of both- this is what gives me the volume. I'd say I use about 2 cups of water and a good handful of ice cubes. This makes about 2 fluffy, air-filled shakes. To make them more dense and creamy, cut back on both ice and water. Hint: If it gets too icy, add a bit more guar gum and perhaps a tiny bit of xanthan (see below).
Many people like to use a different liquid... some thoughts: milk, soy milk, almond milk, kefir, yogurt, greek yogurt, buttermilk, rice milk, coconut milk, hemp milk. Skies-the-limits.
Truth be known I'm a protein powder hussy. I don't have a particular favorite and I buy whatever is on sale. My only requirement is for it to be low in carbs as I'd rather eat my carbs elsewhere (hello popcorn or fruit!). I usually have on hand at any given time: Vanilla Whey, Vanilla Soy, Chocolate Whey, Chocolate Soy, A flavored Whey (like chocolate peanut butter etc).
I love the HMR powder I used years ago. I also like Jay Robb whey (thanks Heabs for the packets!) as it's nice and fluffy. Also Skinny Mini is a favorite and happens to be soy chocolate. Many people opt to go au natural and skip the powders. I buy them because I've got it ingrained in my head that they are a good source of protein (they supposedly have all of the amino acids and other goodies that the experts recommend for muscle recovery etc) and they do fluff up really nicely.
There are a zillion types of protein powders out there- Heabs also sent me some Rice Protein and while it's good in oats and warm things, I didn't love it in the shake. Also, there's hemp protein, brazil nut protein, the list goes on and on. Peruse the health food store for ideas.
I am a huge fan of xanthan gum (XG) and guar gum (GG) for getting the right consistency of the shakes. In my experience, XG makes shakes thicker and GG makes it creamier. But it is the synergistic effect of adding the two together that makes the magic occur. Now, you should check out the links to Wikepedia that I provided so you can familiarize yourself with these gums. They originate from sugars in some way, and sometimes cause GI upset, though that's never been a problem for me. They are used in millions of products- next time you're at the store- try reading some labels (ice creams, salad dressings, powders, the works)- I think you'll be surprised how prevalent they are! Some of you may opt out at this point- that's ok!
Basically you need very little XG and twice the amount of GG. Again, this is my experience. And I don't measure them! I just sprinkle and shake. However once I measured out of curiosity and it was about 1/4 tsp of XG and 1/2 tsp of GG for one GINORMOUS shake or two normal sized shakes. A WORD OF CAUTION: There is a point of no-return with the XG however- if you add too much, it becomes a gelatinous blob and must go down the sink- OR can be saved by diluting the heck out of it and doubling the amount. Trust me folks- there's a lot of trial and error, but it's worth it in my opinion.
If you cannot or do not want to use the gums, your best bet is adding a frozen banana.
I'm currently on the fence about Stevia. After years of despising the taste and using Splenda, I finally grew to like the powdered stevia I found at Trader Joe's. However, I know there's controversy about it (as with EVERYTHING)...and it is sooooo sweet. Some people add absolutely no sweeteners to their shakes. Often the fruit provides enough sweetness.
Truth be known, I don't use much fruit inside my shakes anymore as I'd rather use it as a topping or eat it later in the day with yogurt. However, frozen rhubarb - while a bit tart - makes for a fluffy, thicker shake and I use it in all of my "fruity" shakes. I buy fresh organic rhubarb and cut it up and stick it in the freezer, where I will take a huge handful for each shake. You can use any kind of fruit- but I recommend that it is cut up and frozen.
If you do use frozen bananas, cut back on the gums or the smoothie will get too thick. In fact one of the BEST, life-changing recipes floating in the Blogosphere is Banana soft serve "ice cream" made by just putting frozen nannerz in a food processor for like 4 minutes, scraping it down- til it magically becomes "ICE CREAM"- amazing. There are some carby wondrous properties that bananas inherently possess - this is what helps them make smoothies so fabulous.
The only nut butters strong enough to impart flavor when incorporated into a smoothie (ie you can actualy taste it) are peanut and sunflower. Personally, I now only consume nut butters on the spoon with which I'm eating my smoothie.
Puddings, Extracts, Evil Flavorings with terrible chemicals
I am trying to approach this with some balance. I use VERY little of each of these items-- we're talking a sprinkle or a few drops- they really do add flavor and for me, they make a difference. In a perfect world, I would use alternative flavorings. For example, instead of the Crystal Light I might try Pom juice, concentrated Cranberry or Blueberry juice. When I run out of the chocolate pudding, I'll use a cocoa or carob powder. However, sugar-free pudding flavors like Cheesecake, Butterscotch, and Pistachio are a bit harder to replace- not to mention Banana Cream! I'm not too concerned about the extracts. I use so little and they really do add flavor. For me, it works. Almond extract works great to enhance a peanut butter flavor.
I am going to relinquish my massive Torani Collection as I run out. Really I am. As I use so little of it every time, that might occur when I'm 87. If you have any of these, you will probably want to use them, but if you don't have them- please don't start.
Extras, not including toppings:
OK here's where it can get interesting. In my opinion the extras can make or break the shake. I LOVE to have a little bit of "chew" in my shake. And cooked, frozen wheat berries (or oat groats or spelt berries- any cooked large-sized grain)- fits the bill. Also, Cacao nibs are super yummy and crunchy for very few calories. However- VITAMIX PEOPLE...Do not obliterate these guys on high speed or you will not be able to get the fun crunch/chew factor. Chia seeds can also be added but as many of you know, you can't really taste them- they get lost in the mix. You can add flax seeds and other things too. Sadly, I find that nuts get lost in the mix too- unless you chop them and stir them gently in. I'd save them for the topping in your bowl.
A word about the magic of Ice Cube Trays-
For all of those kids out there like me with an old-school fridge, ice cube trays rock the house. You can freeze anything and everything, and if it's Smoothie-friendly- all the better. I've frozen canned pumpkin and made pumpkin pie smoothies (with pumkin pie spice, vanilla powder etc). You can freeze every kind of milk in trays: coconut, soy, almond. I even freeze regular milk and have done so for YEARS, as my Mom did before me. Use your imagination and if you're headed out of town and those liquids would otherwise be tossed, why not freeze them and give them a new lease on life?
OK. I'm exhausted from hearing myself babble on about smoothies. Now I want to hear YOUR thoughts and brilliant ideas.
Oh, before I go, here's my favorite standard, every-day, go-to shake:
The PB&J Smoothie:
- 1-2 cups water or other liquid
- scoop vanilla protein powder
- 1/2 tsp GG
- 1/4 tsp XG
- few drops almond extract
- scant splash Sugarfree Torani (crack) Peanut Butter syrup
- sprinkle vanilla sugar-free fat free pudding
- handful rhubarb mixed berries to taste: strawberries mainly, plus sprinkle of raspberries, blue- and blackberries
- 1/2 to 1 T (or more) of Peanut Butter
- sprinkle of Crystal Light in Raspberry Ice flavor to taste
- 1+ cup of ice.
Let it bring you back to the days when you wore knee socks and opened up your Scooby-Doo Lunch Pail after Mrs. Abbott dismissed you for lunch...mmmm....Enjoy and let me know what you think!