At one time, I called these fantastic creations Shamrock shakes. Then I discovered that McDonalds cornered the internet with that name and quickly dropped the term. I make Green Smoothies Las Vegas style. Can’t find the YouTube video of the woman making what she called a Las Vegas style smoothie, but until I can come up with another name, that’s what I’ll call them.
Smoothies with style
If you search around the internet, you’ll find tones of articles (and video clips) showing people making green smoothies. Do you have the time? I did. And now I’ve got the confidence to just whip one up.
The basic ingredients consist of:
And, of course, a high powered blender. I found the money for a Vita-mix 5200 and I’ve got to say I’ve been satisfied with my purchase so far. One of these days’ I expect the Raw Vegan Source will update their webpage with the latest and greatest.
In any case, if you just throw together these three main ingredients, you might not get something that really makes you want to drink it. Thus, let’s look at each category.
Lots of people simply add water. Not me. The liquid that you put in as the base is the predominant flavor. I almost always use some type of juice. One of my favorites is Apple Blackberry. Unfortunately, I’ve now run out of frozen blackberries so this will not be an option until August rolls around again. Another favorite is Orange Pineapple Banana. I love the creaminess of this combination. Come summertime, my absolute favorite is Honey Dew Melon juice!
On days when the raw versions of these juices elude me, I turn to frozen coconut milk (drained from fresh Thai Coconuts that I save in ice cube trays) or the Whole Foods pasteurized equivalent with the vanilla flavoring. Or, if I’ve made some Almond Milk, that works great!
Even though I’ve found my favorites, don’t be afraid to come up with a base that you really love. Some people add teas, I haven’t tried that yet. Others just stick with water, yet I find that a little plane.
Jazz up your smoothie by adding a liquid base of some sort. Experiment and you’ll find combinations that work great with the different greens that you’re consuming.
Now what about those greens? When you first start thinking about green smoothies, the number of greens that come to mind are fairly limited. Yet, as time goes on, you’ll figure out what’s the cheapest and what has the biggest nutritional bang-for-the-buck.
Baby spinach really does foot the bill. I buy it a couple pounds at a time, but don’t buy more than a few days worth of greens. You always want to consumer the cleanest freshest greens. If the leaves are turning (rotten tips) you’ve got to ask yourself if you’re feeling lucky! Those might be fine if you’re going to steam them for 10 minutes, but raw… no thank you. In any case, I use about ½ lb spinach in each smoothie. Spinach is pretty watery and it blends up smooth.
Parsley is another one of my favorites. It has a bit stronger flavor, but it blends up nice. When it comes to blending this up, I use the stocks and all. Most of the time, I’ll blend up one bunch into a smoothie. If the store is skimping, I’ll sometimes add one and one half. With this one, I’m always on the lookout for bunches that are clean. Parsley tends to hold dirt so it requires a little more time to give it a good shaking under water. If you do this in a bowl, you’ll get to witness the dirt that sinks to the bottom of the bowl that didn’t sink to the bottom of your green smoothie.
There are lots of different lettuces. I look for the ones on sale and the ones with the darkest green pigment. We’ve all heard that it takes more energy to digest lettuce than what it gives off, yet the chlorophyll is what you’re after here. (Of course there is fiber and some minerals, but the other greens have so much more.) In each green smoothie, I’ll use an entire head. Brake off the leaves, give them a rise and blend away. The flavor is a little bitter, but that can be masked by a good combination of fruit.
Kale’s like smoothie dynamite! The heavy structure of the leaf and its dark pigments make for a nutritionally packed dynamo. The problem is that when it blends up, it doesn’t shred like spinach, or parsley, so you’ve got to run it a bit longer. Also, taste it all by itself. It’s pretty bitter. Whenever I use really dark greens I offset the bitterness with lemon. A couple tablespoons (juice of a small lemon) will make a Kale smoothie palatable. In some cases, downright enjoyable.
Again, with kale, I use a whole bunch, or, if it’s in season and the bunches are really big, I’ll use about 2/3’s a bunch. They grind up to next to nothing, so why not add in a full meal?
Other leaves that I really like a beet greens. I look forward to picking a handful of leaves out of the garden in the morning when they are in season. Nothing’s better than picking and drinking greens in the same hour. Beet greens are pretty mild, especially if you get the young ones. They’ll also a the color red to your mix sometimes turning the concoction brown. But hey, if it tastes good, you’re body will ‘eat it up.’
Carrot tops, well there is something that I haven’t been able to really come to grips with. They are on the super nutritious side of things, but until I find a way to offset the bitters, they will remain bunny food.
Herbs can also be used, but I find that the one that stands out the best is mint. What a great addition to a smoothie! Come springtime with the mint is ten inches high I’ll pinch the tops of a half dozen stocks and add those in. Wow. Fresh mint, I highly recommend giving that a try.
On the flip side of adding herbs is that they are usually very potent. A little goes a long way. Most herbs are savory and stand out great with cooked meals. Yet, when added to a green smoothie they tend to drastically change the flavor so as to through things out of balance. I haven’t perfected the art of adding things like basil or thyme or oregano, but hope to find some helpful information one of these days.
The most important thing to remember about greens is that you’ve got to rotate your greens. All plants produce natural toxins that they use to defend themselves from predators. You’re body can take a lot, but it most likely expels the toxins slower then consuming the food. Thus, don’t eat spinach every day! Rather, buy what’s on sale and eat it for a few days and then switch to another green. Pick out a number of greens that you rotate through. Be sensitive to the seasons in which the plants get harvested and try to consumer what’s naturally growing in your region at any given time.
This is where the flavor really comes from. This is what makes the body crave smoothies rather than be repulsed by them. All smoothies should taste good! If it doesn’t, make it differently. Add more fruit or add stronger fruit.
The number one fruit that makes it into every smoothie that I make is Dates. I buy them by the two pound container at Costco and add about 1 date per two cups of final product. These things are packed with great natural sugars that are great a countering the bitterness of greens. Some people don’t like their smoothies so sweet, but, my motto is, if your body doesn’t love it, it’s not going to drink it. And at the same time, I’m always looking to increase the amount of calories I consume, so Dates fit the bill.
Bananas are one of the key staples. When you add a banana to a smoothie, it’s going to give it a creaminess that most other fruits will not. Yet, make sure that you’re adding ripe bananas. Green ones just don’t perform the same. As a side note, if you buy too many bananas you can always freeze them in Ziploc baggies. Frozen bananas also work great!
All other fruit selections should be seasonal. It’s really hard to miss not know when different fruit is coming on in your area. Cherries, peaches, apricots, plums, apples, melons, or whatever; buy what’s ripe and enjoy it until it’s gone. Get what feels best to you and don’t be afraid to mix things up.
During the winter time, I’ve found that I love adding frozen fruit. When the fruit is in peak season, usually during the summer, I’ll buy boxes of peaches, apricots and cherries and freeze them on quart size baggies. Adding in the frozen fruit adds a chill to the smoothie that means you can run the blender longer without over heating the mixture. This leads to a smoother fluffier texture for the drink.
Now the question is, how much do you add?
I start every smoothie with the liquid base. I’ll add about a cup. Maybe a little more depending on how hungry I am. I usually add a bit of water so that the blender reads a cup and a half of liquid.
Next, I rinse off the greens. When I stuff them into the blender, it usually fills it to the top. I then add a couple Dates and grind it up. But only enough to break the leaves into bits. At this point I can gauge the volume of the mixture. It might be two and a half or three cups.
Now, I add fruit up to the volume that I’m looking for. That’s usually 4-5 cups. This might mean a couple bananas, or couple apples or a third of a bag of frozen apricots or… whatever. It’s just that I want to get up to the correct volume. For me, because I make green smoothies my breakfast, I’m looking for about a quart.
Topping can change everything. Things that I like to add include cacao powder, vanilla powder, probiotics, green powders, protein powders or other dried fruit powders. There are hundreds of different items that you could add that will give a subtle change to the drink and add to it’s nutritional value.
The only caution that I would make is that you don’t want to mix in things that are really hard to digest with your green smoothie. Fruit and greens digest fast, proteins take a bit longer.
So when it comes to making your green smoothie, go with the flow and make it enjoyable. The better it tastes, the more you’ll consume. The more you consume, the better you’ll feel.
If you find something that you really enjoy, let me know. I’m always looking to give something new a try.
And don’t forget to search the web for other recipes. I would start with Victoria Boutenko’s site. She’s the mother of these magical creations. Buy her book (Green for Life) and learn more!