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The art and science of the smoothie


Fat Guy
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I have recently become a smoothie addict. A smoothie has become my typical breakfast. I am, however, at an extremely rudimentary phase of smoothie making. I'm just putting fruit, water and ice in my not-great Waring blender. I'm looking to up my game and I know you all can help.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I usually include banana in addition to whatever other fruiits I am throwing in, as well as yougurt and a teaspoon or so of honey. You can add a little spice, too, such as cinnamon.

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I have recently become a smoothie addict. A smoothie has become my typical breakfast. I am, however, at an extremely rudimentary phase of smoothie making. I'm just putting fruit, water and ice in my not-great Waring blender. I'm looking to up my game and I know you all can help.

I have long wondered about the smoothie for breakfast as a great time saver, but just couldn't wrap my mind around it.

I thought dairy was usually a component, like yogurt...or perhaps soy or rice milk. :hmmm:

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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The banana thing I've noticed. If you use banana, you get a creamy smoothie. If you don't use banana, you need some sort of dairy source of creaminess. I have no fundamental problem with dairy but it's something I don't prefer to have in the morning.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Add some whey protein to make it even more healthy!

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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I have been adding a couple of tablespoons of Bob's Red Mill ground flaxseed. It doesn't really affect the flavor and presumably will make me live forever.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Our 2.5 year old son loves smoothies and likes to help me make them, so we have them often. We usually start with yogurt, a banana, a little honey, flax, a little milk to get it to blend properly, about 4-6 ice cubes/2 cups total volume, and sometimes juice or other fruits if we have them and he's interested.

I experimented with xanthan gum a bit to adjust the consistency and keep it from separating. Yogurt and xanthan, I found, creates a slimy mouthfeel, but without the yogurt, a very tiny amount (like 0.05g/2 cups) can make a smoother consistency and keep it together longer, if you're not going to drink it all at once, but in the end, I'd rather have yogurt than xanthan gum.

Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)
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I'm wondering whether a high-powered blender wouldn't just overcome all the considerations of what needs to be added to make something smooth. I see those VitaMix demos at Costco occasionally and it seems like that thing can make a creamy, smooth beverage out of a cinder block. Or if you let it run long enough it makes a hit soup. Or if you start with a frozen cinder block it makes sorbet.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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We popped for a Vita-Mix about a year ago, ostensibly to make better smoothies, but it is/was a really cool toy. However, the main advantage relative to our previous Kitchen Aid is that the ice or frozen fruit becomes completely smooth rather than pretty smooth. The justification to upgrade is kind of shaky.

Another aspect of the smoothie topic is the cost of smoothies outside the home. Our health club offers a $5 smoothie with yogurt and/or soy milk, choice of fruit (all frozen in bags), with added cost options of peanut butter, whey powder, etc. Even using the most generous ingredient cost there is perhaps 75 cents worth of food in the blender. That might be a better gross margin than pizza!

I find that the active bacteria yogurts are good for me, and smoothies are a very easy way to add this to my diet.

Whey protein powder, as mentioned above, adds protein without adding fat. Soy milk is also said to be good for health, but I don't like the taste. In a smoothie, it is undetectable.

Berries (fresh or frozen) allegedly have strong health benefits and taste good. Banana, peaches, and mango work well. Good quality frozen fruit is better than mediocre out of season produce. If you use fresh fruit, you obviously need a handful of ice to cool things off.

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I'm wondering whether a high-powered blender wouldn't just overcome all the considerations of what needs to be added to make something smooth. I see those VitaMix demos at Costco occasionally and it seems like that thing can make a creamy, smooth beverage out of a cinder block. Or if you let it run long enough it makes a hit soup. Or if you start with a frozen cinder block it makes sorbet.

You can try mine out sometime. I have the Vita-Prep 3 1005, which is something like a 4 horsepower commercial version of the Vita-Mix (who knew they even measured blenders in horsepower?). I have used mine to turn ice cubes into snow, and have found that it can make just about anything perfectly smooth (I liquified a Spanish chorizo once). When not making cinderblock sorbet or owl bisque, I like to use it as a wood chipper and lawn mower.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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If you're into tropical flavors, frozen banana, pineapple chunks and a little coconut milk is great. Since I find myself in the position from time to time of having leftover coconut milk, this is a good way to use it up. Can alternatively use creamed coconut (stuff in blocks) plus water as your creamy element.

Also, in a moment of desperation once, I added a dollop of part-skim ricotta to the blender when I found my yogurt has gotten funky. Not bad....

Have also heard about the joys of the avocado shake...wondering if the dessert-like concoction can be turned into something more breakfast-y?

Are you seeking flavor combination ideas, techniques for smoothie making, or all of the above?

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One problem for me with smoothies would be the lack of something crunchy or bready.

Is the smoothie supposed to be the whole meal...or is it accompanied by something else? This might bring the caloric count up too high for the average person? :hmmm: Has someone worked out the count already?

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Are you seeking flavor combination ideas, techniques for smoothie making, or all of the above?

I have no set agenda. I had a surplus of fruit a while back and so I froze a bunch of it when it was super-ripe. I then decided to make a smoothie one morning and really enjoyed it. So I've escalated my smoothie-making and have had a smoothie most days for breakfast for the past while. Now I'm trying to learn more.

I'm probably not interested in adding sugar (or honey) or dairy products. But that doesn't mean those things are verboten for discussion. Other than that, I'm interested in the largest possible information dump on smoothie making, so I can get caught up.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I use a Waring Commercial BB900, which is a fairly standard two-speed bar blender, and it doesn't have any trouble making smooth smoothies. My xanthan gum experiments were more a curiosity to see what else I could do. When it works, it makes something more like the consistency of a fast food milkshake, which isn't necessarily more desirable, but Melchi seemed to like it. We've never taken him to a fast food restaurant, but he's probably been to one with the babysitter occasionally.

Also, frozen fruit lets you use fewer ice cubes. When the bananas are starting to get overripe, I peel them, wrap individually in plastic wrap (much easier than trying to peel a frozen banana), and put them in the freezer.

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My Waring bar blender can make a smoothie well enough, but compared to a VitaMix/Prep or a Champ (or the high-power Waring they put out recently to compete with those products) it seems pretty feeble. I need to do some more hands-on experimenting, though.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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My Waring by the way says it's model 34BL87.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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What defines a smoothie? For non-dairy blender drinks I like to use orange juice as a base, or grapefruit juice. Then I just add fruits of choice. Mango and peach can give it a creamy quality. I can't stand bananas in drinks, so I never add them. I like blender drinks for lunch or late snacks, and I especially like to add sorbets or non-dairy ices to fruit drinks--just enough to up the cold factor but keep the fruits and fruit juice as the main event.

When I use dairy, it's often just milk and fruit, then a dollop of yogurt and/or a dollop of vanilla ice cream to make it a little richer. I am sort of a minimalist when it comes to blender drinks, so I don't add tons of different stuff. Some of my favorite combos are:

Grapefuit juice (freshly squeezed if you have it!) with pineapple sherbet or any fruit sorbet. Orange or grapefruit juice with fresh melon or stone fruit, sorbet opt.

Orange juice mixed with carrot juice. I don't have a juicer, but whenever I go to a juice bar that's what I get if I don't get straight carrot. Good with a hint of ginger.

Milk with berries or almost any fruit. Sometimes I will use 1% milk and add just a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. In winter, frozen berries work really well.

My daughter prefers to combine fruit juice with dairy. She uses orange juice and yogurt and then adds fresh or frozen berries and she likes a small amt of banana as well. Her drinks always seem chaotic to me, but no one could argue they aren't healthy. Sometimes she mixes orange juice with a little vanilla ice cream and makes a sort or perverse creamsicle drink. If she hits the right proportions it isn't too bad, but she is generally reckless in the kitchen.

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My standard is about 300 ml of good apple juice, then a handful of frozen blueberries, and a couple of frozen strawberries. We buy those fruits by the pound in the spring and summer and vacuum pack for use all year especially for smoothies. If we let a hand of bananas go to long, I'll throw a slice in. My wife likes some yoghurt.

But, I really don't like water. It tastes much better with good apple juice.

And on the blender side, I have a l'equip. It has a tachometer ;) Faithfully serving me smoothies for many years now. Best blender I've ever had (but I've never owned a vita mix).

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For textural creaminess without dairy, try a combination of frozen fruit plus silken (soft) tofu.

Some flavor combinations I enjoy are (pretty pedestrian):

strawberry and pineapple

strawberry and banana

I second peach and mango

peach and crystallized ginger

papaya and mango

peanut butter and banana

blueberries and almond butter

Some recipes recommend adding cocoa powder straight to smoothies. Personally, the texture goes off for me when I do that, so I might add a small spoonful of Nutella or homemade (barely sweet) chocolate syrup (cocoa powder, sugar, water, cooked together....keeps pretty well in the fridge) if I'm craving a chocolate smoothie. Frozen banana, splash of milk, chocolate source, sometimes frozen strawberries.

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I tried to hunt down the specs on various Waring blenders, and they're pretty ambiguous about such information, making things even more unclear by using terms like "Commercial" and "Pro" in both their restaurant and household lines and describing some motors in amps and others in horsepower and others with even more vague terms like "commercial grade" and "professional grade." So it's possible that the Waring BB900, which is marketed to restaurants and costs around $140 is a more powerful or more sturdy blender than the 34BL87, which seems to have been marketed to consumers at about 1/3 the price of the BB900, but without testing, I couldn't say that for sure.

I have noticed that the BB900 is a lot more powerful than the multi-speed household blender (I forget which brand, but probably Hamilton Beach or Oster or one of those) that my parents have.

Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)
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I suppose that my recipe for an Orange Julep might qualify as a smoothie. We had it for supper last night with a bowl of popcorn.

Orange juleps go back to my childhood in Montreal in the 40s (yes, I am THAT old) and taking the streetcar to Decarie Blvd to the Orange Julep orange. The building was in the shape of an orange, something unheard of back then. The julep was amazing.

Found a copycat recipe online and I of course tweak it.

Per person: 1/4 c orange juice; 1/4 c milk, dash of vanilla, dollop of sugar (your taste) and a whole peeled orange. Four ice cubes per. All in the blender. Great! :wub:

Oops. Almost forgot...a big pinch of orange zest per.

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Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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If you watch the Vitamix/Blendtec (I have the latter) demos they most always include banana. It smoothes things out, thickens it up and acts as an emulsifier. Dairy (or soy) by itself will lend creaminess, but won't really help to thicken or smooth things.

I have found that about 1/2 tsp of Xanthan gum (also from Bob's Red Mill) will replace the banana for smoothing, thickening and emulsifying.

It helps to pre-blend it with liquid before adding the solids/ice. So I add the liquid to the blender, sprinkle the xanthan on top, and pulse a few times to mix. (This is actually good practice for any powdered stuff you add - cocoa, etc.) Then I add my frozen and chunky stuff and blend.

I don't use ice in most of my smoothies - instead I use frozen fruit. With the Blendtec a ratio of 1 part frozen fruit to one part liquid (by volume) and some xanthan gets me a very nice smoothie. Typically one cup of frozen fruit, one cup liquid (I usually use a 50/50 mix of sugar free non-dairy creamer and water) and 1/2 tsp of xanthan.

(FYI, frozen dessert is 2 parts frozen, 1 part liquid, 1 tsp xanthan - at least for the Blendtec.)

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Mark

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I love smoothies....my basic recipe is fruit, nonfat yogurt, ice, and maybe a splash of skim milk. The flavor of yogurt varies with what type of fruit I'm using.

Berries with strawberry yogurt

Bananas with vanilla yogurt + peanut butter

Bananas with strawberry/banana yogurt

Mango with strawberry/banana yogurt

....etc....

I think the principal component of a smoothie should by definition be the fruit. Too much yogurt/milk/what-have-you and it kinda becomes a shake.

Oh, and I should add that any of the above can be improved by a splash of a complimentary spirit, although that may make them unsuitable for weekday breakfast consumption :wink:

Sarah Fernandez aka "mssurgeon81"

Philadelphia, PA

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I'm with Katie Meadows. I don't like bananas all that much, even though they are a very useful fruit. I like them in fruit pancakes and I love fried bananas, but then what's not to like in fried bananas? butter, booze, chocolate poured over...you could almost start with turnips.

Is there another fruit which could take the banana's place?

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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