Thursday, June 28, 2012

How Smoothies Are Like Marinades (and how I am like Rocky Balboa)

I tend to not use recipes when I make things like smoothies or marinades. I might use a recipe as a guide, but more often than not, I just don't bother. Instead, I use a formula... really it's almost more of a rhyme or mnemonic. Breaking the finished product down into it's basic elements makes for a super-flexible and creative approach. As a result, my smoothies and marinades all tend to be of the "everything-but-the-kitchen sink" variety: always tasty, occasionally spectacular. If I hit on a particular combination that knocks it out of the park... I write it down in a messy notebook (or on this blog) for the next time. Here's my approach to smoothie making...

My Smoothie Formula
Thin (liquid) …milk, fruit juice, kefir water, coconut milk, whey, coffee, tea
Thick (something to give it body) …banana, yogurt, soaked oats, pumpkin puree, peanut butter
Fruit (a must, unless making coffee-based drink) …berries, stone fruits, pineapple, banana, citrus, mango
Fiber (something to healthify it) …wheat germ, ground flax seed, coconut, oats, dark leafy greens
Spice (something to give it dazzle) …cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cocoa powder, mint, vanilla
Ice (makes it frosty and refreshing) …cubes of frozen water or other frozen liquids
Sweet (optional) …honey, jam, maple syrup, brown sugar, brown rice syrup

Those are the building blocks of any smoothie I make. Some elements, such as the banana, can pull double duty. Frozen fruits can also count as ice. And I always taste it before adding any sweetener to it (most of the time, only a little, if any, is needed). I use what I happen to have on hand and from there, whatever sounds good together. Amounts are just eyeballed depending on the number of servings, and more liquid can always be added to thin it out if need be. After making a few, you get a feel for how much liquid/solid/ice you'll need.

Yo, Drink Your Breakfast
Smoothies are probably one of the first things I ever learned to make. They're certainly the first thing I learned to make without a recipe. My mom would make them for us when we were kids, but back then we called them breakfast shakes. Mom would pour some milk and orange juice into the blender, toss in a banana, a spoonful of wheat germ, a handful of ice cubes, and a raw egg, blend it all together and call it breakfast.*

Now, for a kid that was weirded out over eggs for many years, that should not have passed Go. But for some reason, I was fine with it. Maybe because it weirded my friends out when I told them. I felt like Rocky in training (even though I wasn't allowed to see the movie, the two boys next door told me all about it). Goodness knows, if my mom and Mr. Balboa had known about putting raw beet greens in breakfast drinks, I'm betting they would have been all over that.   

*WARNING! Because of the potential health issues with factory-farmed eggs these days, I do not recommend using them in your smoothies (or breakfast shakes). Instead, try a protein powder to up the nutritional punch and make it more of a meal.

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