Making Great Smoothies

I had my first smoothie in the early 80's at a place called the Hobbit Hole here in Houston. That may ring some bells and bring back some memories for some. At the time, I was just a kid and hadn't ever heard of a smoothie until I ordered it. Delicious! Today, I would call what I had more of a 'fruit and ice slush'. Very thin, blended but still somewhat chunky fruit (strawberries, I believe), and bits of ice (which I still actually enjoy in smoothies or ice cream). A true smoothie is thicker, the consistency of a milkshake. Both styles are delicious, but I think many smoothies end up more of a 'slushy' by default. Ten or so years later, early 90's now, I worked in the old Whole Foods on Shepherd in the deli. That's where I learned how to make a thick, milkshake like smoothie.

Number one trick is to use frozen bananas as the base. Think of this as the 'ice cream' that makes it thick. If you want the thickest possible smoothie, freeze any additional fruit you will be using as an ingredient (I always freeze all of my fruit). Depending on the result you want, adjust the amount of frozen banana and other fruit to get anything from 'melting milkshake' to 'so thick you have to use a spoon, don't bother with a straw'.

Number two is to properly prepare your bananas. Of course, you will want to slice the bananas before you freeze them. The real trick here is to slice them thin enough that your blender can easily blend them up, but also not so thin that the 'banana-mass' freezes into a solid block of banana-ice which you will have a terrible time breaking apart again. This of course would defeat the purpose of slicing thin for blending.

Ingredients:

5 to 10 ripe (or over-ripe) bananas to freeze. (3 1/2 - 4 cups frozen bananas for making your smoothies. With 10 bananas, you will likely have extra frozen bananas for more smoothies after your first batch.)

1/2 cup other frozen fruit (e.g. peaches, cherries, blueberries, etc.) as your main flavoring.

3/4 cup organic apple juice or 3/4 cups almond/soy/rice milk to your preference. (See note about organic apple juice in the Tips below.)

1/4 cup 'thin-style' yogurt (like White Mountain) or kefir, etc.

1/2 cup plain or 'flavored' granola (I used 'blueberry flax granola' with the blueberry smoothies I recently made).

The Steps:

  1. Slice your bananas (as thick as 4 or 5 stacked quarters.  See photo below).

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  • Place them in a container with a tight cover, or just cover with foil.

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  • Freeze for at least 12 hours.

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  • Get your blender out on the counter (food processor can work too, but I like the narrowness of the old style blender).

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  • Measure everything out before you start your blender. Use a spoon or your hands to break up the frozen banana - please DON'T EVER USE A KNIFE for this!

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  1. Place your frozen banana pieces in the blender.  I usually hold back a little, or have a little extra, to keep control of the thickness.  Add it in later to thicken more.
  2. Pour the apple juice or soy/nut milk over the bananas.
  3. Blend until smooth. The pulse feature (i.e. overdrive) on your blender should help get this done.
  4. Add in your 'flavor fruit', peaches, etc. 
  5. Blend until smooth again.
  6. Add in yogurt.  You can add it in as the blender runs, still working on the last fruit that was added.  You can leave out the yogurt if you want...
  7. Add in the granola (while the blender is on again).  I promise that the granola will grind away into nothing but added flavor in no time at all.  You could could leave out the granola if you want too...
  8. Blend until smooth again, again.
  9. If you want to thicken the smoothie, add in additional frozen banana or other fruit now.  To thin it out, add juice, soy milk or nut milk now.
  10. Add in some small cubes or pre-crushed ice to get some of those crunchy ice crystals.
  11. Add in anything else you can think of, find or catch. Blend...
  12. Pour your smoothie into two or three nice glasses.  I actually put them in my whiskey or wine glasses, because I like thin, glass containers for everything.
  13. Share!

Tips: 

  • USE FROZEN BANANAS! 🙂
  • Try breaking up the frozen banana you plan to use, by hand (from the outside, keep your hands clean), in a 1 gallon freezer bag.
  • Measure all of your ingredients out before starting to make your smoothie. Your smoothie won't melt or get watery all that quickly, but there is no reason to take longer than necessary. Be in control of how thick or thin the smoothie is when you are done.
  • For my additional 'flavor' frozen fruits, I've made smoothies with all the suggestions I've mentioned above.  For the cherries, I used fresh Washington cherries which I pitted (with a pitter tool)  then froze.  For the blueberries, I just bought fresh blueberries, rinsed and then put them in the freezer. For the peaches, I bought canned, sliced, no pit peaches in light syrup.  I drained all the syrup off, cut them into smaller pieces and then froze them.
  • Remember, all this fruit has quite a bit of fructose. If you are watching your sugar, and even if you aren't, remember you probably shouldn't live on smoothies. I was once told, by a very serious runner, that the only time your body really needs sugar is after a hard workout. Something I try to keep in mind.

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