Saturday, February 26, 2011

Healthier Choices: The Green Monster Smoothie


Let me start by saying, yes, I am aware the photo above does not technically show a 'green' smoothie, but it is representative of one of the many variations of this particular recipe.  Sometimes they're brilliant green, sometimes a muddy brown, sometimes a redish brick color.  It all depends on your personal selection of ingredients.  As I recall, this particular smoothie had some blueberry and cherries added.

Hi and welcome to Good Things.  You're viewing the inaugural post for my new blog.  I'm not new to blogging, I've been doing it on and off since about 2007.  My previous blog, Baking in Oregon, was a lot of fun, but I really felt that I wanted to cover more topics than just baking and cooking.  Things I think are really good about life - cooking and baking (obviously), photography, health, family, friends, anything that I really feel worthy of mention.  My previous blog posts are still available, just click on the "Baking in Oregon" tab and follow the links.

I thought I'd kick things off with one of my favorite quick, healthy and tasty recipes, The Green Monster Smoothie.  These have been around for awhile now, but they are somewhat newer to me.  As someone who isn't a big fan of vegetables, I'm always on the lookout for creative ways to incorporate more of the good stuff into our (my) diet.  This smoothie is a wonderful way to get a nice healthy dose of veggies and fruit all in one delicious, homemade shot.

The recipe is simple.  You can modify it in a thousand different ways, just stick with the basic proportions of each type of ingredient.  I've included some of my favorite variations below as a starting point.  One more note, smoothies such as this can be blender killers.  If you have a powerhouse blender, this recipe should give you no problems.  If you have an older or smaller blender, scale the recipe back as needed.  This recipe makes about 5-6 cups total, which, for my blender is about 2/3 full.


The Green aka the Green Monster aka the Super Foods Smoothie


Makes about 5-6 cups

Spinach, Orange Juice, Yogurt and Berries are all on the list of ‘Super Foods’ known to pack some of the strongest nutritional punch.  It’s hard to find easier recipes that give you access to so many good things at one time.

3 Cups Spinach (loosely packed, not crammed in)
1 Cup 100% Fruit Juice (Orange Juice, Grape Juice, Apple Juice or any 100% juice with no added sugar)
½ Cup Milk (1% or Non-Fat)
1 Cup Regular or Greek Yogurt (preferably low fat, low sugar)
2 Packets Truvia or other sweetener of your choice (optional)
1 Cup Frozen or Fresh Fruit, such as Strawberries, Blueberries, Pineapple, Peaches, Banana, etc.
½ Cup Water

Place the Spinach, Fruit Juice, Milk, Yogurt and Sweetener in a blender.  Mix until well combined and the spinach leaves are just tiny green specs.

Stop the blender and add the Fruit and, if needed, the Water.  Continue to blend, pulsing as needed to break up the fruit.  Blend until smooth.

Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.  If the smoothie separates, just give it a good shake.

This is a very easy recipe to adjust to your personal tastes as well as to the ingredients you happen to have on hand.  Using the most basic recipe and a mix of Orange Juice and a mild colored fruit such as peaches, your smoothie will have a beautiful green color.  Adding darker fruit or fruit juice such as grape juice and strawberries, you may end up with a brown or redish color.  Regardless of the color, these smoothies taste awesome and are a great way to get your fruits and veggies into your diet.  I’ve been told that kids love these, even ones who won’t always eat their veggies!

A quick note, be sure not to overload your blender.  These smoothies can kill lesser blenders, so judge for yourself how much your particular model can handle.  You’ve been warned.  As for me, I killed my first blender (a 30-year old model) and recently replaced with a remanufactured $300 blender I got for less than half that.

Here are some ideas to customize your smoothies:

  • Instead of Spinach, you can use Kale, Red Cabbage or other mild flavored leafy vegetable – just be sure to remove the ribs, if they have them.  For spinach, you can leave the stems on.
  • Use any fruit juice you’d like, I am careful to select juices that are as close to natural (100% juice) as possible.   Preferably with little or no added sugar.
  • The milk is optional and you can sub Soy Milk, Almond Milk, Hemp Milk or even just water if you prefer.
  • Use plain, vanilla or flavored yogurt to meet your taste preference.  To keep calories and sugar down, I tend to choose light yogurts.
  • I like Truvia (a brand of Stevia based sweetener) to up the sweetness just a bit.  Leave it out, add more or use another sweetener of choice.  Honey, Agave Syrup, Splenda or just plain sugar are just some possible options.  Use what you prefer.  Being a diabetic, I prefer to keep the simple sugars to a minimum, so artificial it is.
  • Just about any fresh or frozen fruit will work.  Frozen fruit is great in the warmer months if you prefer frostier smoothie.  For whole fresh fruits like apples and peaches go ahead and remove the core, stem and/or pit and leave the skins on for the greatest nutritional benefit.  A note on apples, I’ve had a hard time getting the skins to pulverize as well as the spinach, so you may notice just a bit more grittiness than normal.  Also berries such as blackberries, strawberries and raspberries will add a lot of seeds, which may be difficult for some to drink.  To eliminate this, either blend the berries into a puree first, and then strain to remove the seeds or you can try to strain them from the smoothie.  Since the smoothie tends to be pretty thick, you may find this doesn’t work very well.  I just leave all the seeds in; they don’t bother me too much.
  • Adjust the water as needed for the thickness you prefer.  If after adding frozen fruit your blender isn’t mixing well, try adding some water to thin it out a bit.
  • You can also add dry ingredients for added nutrition such as oatmeal or flax seed.  If you do add ingredients such as these, I suggest you grind them to a near powder form first.  Some blenders can do this for you (before you make the smoothie) or use a clean coffee grinder.  Also, for oatmeal, it will soak up some extra moisture, so add some extra water if needed.  I recommend for my base recipe above, to try adding ½ cup oatmeal, finely ground and an additional ¼ cup water.  I’ve done this myself and it works just great.
  • Get really creative.  I’ve added a heaping tablespoon of unsweetened dark cocoa powder (also good for you) to make a chocolate strawberry smoothie (see below), which was really good.  You can add vanilla extract, fresh ground nutmeg, cinnamon.  How about a Pumpkin Pie smoothie adding some pureed pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and maybe a little maple syrup or brown sugar?  I’m going to have to try that one myself.
  • Need more nutrition?  Add some soy or whey based protein powder to help keep your hunger down.  Heck, you can also add some tofu if you don’t have a soy allergy.
  • Go nuts.  Add some ground almonds, pecans or walnuts for another big time healthy boost.  I’ve even heard some folks like to add a dollop of natural peanut butter or Nutella to their smoothies.
Here are some of my favorite blends:

Chocolate Strawberry Smoothie

3 Cups Spinach, loosely packed
1 Cup Orange Juice
½ Cup 1% Milk
1 Cup Lowfat Vanilla Yogurt
3 Packets Truvia
1 Heaping Tablespoon Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 Cup Frozen Strawberries
½ Cup Water

Orange Pineapple Smoothie

3 Cups Spinach
1 Cup Orange Juice
½ Cup 1% Milk
1 Cup Lowfat Vanilla Yogurt
2 Packets Truvia
1 Cup Frozen Pineapple
½ Cup Water

Grape Berry Smoothie

3 Cups Spinach
1 Cup Grape Juice (100% juice)
½ Cup 1% Milk
1 Cup Lowfat Vanilla Yogurt
2 Packets Truvia
1 Cup Frozen Blueberries
½ Cup Water

Peach Berry Smoothie

3 Cups Spinach
1 Cup Orange Juice
½ Cup 1% Milk
1 Cup Lowfat Strawberry Yogurt
2 Packets Truvia
1 Cup Frozen Peaches and Strawberries
½ Cup Water

Oatmeal Smoothie

3 Cups Spinach
1 Cup Orange Juice (or other fruit juice)
½ Cup 1% Milk
1 Cup Lowfat Vanilla Yogurt
2 Packets Truvia
1 Cup Frozen Fruit (any kind)
½ Cup Regular Oats, finely ground
¾ Cup Water

 


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