I can remember walking into the Smoothie Shack in Phoenix, AZ as a 15 year old kid. I wanted a job. I had just had a "come to Jesus" with my mom about the realities of the world where she laid it out for me pretty frankly:
"If you want to have money to spend, you need a job."
There it was.
Into the Smoothie Shack I went.
Yes, I can get a food handler's card. Yes, I have permission to work in this country. Yes, my parents will vouch for me. Yup, I'll have a car soon too - that's why I need the job - to put gas and insurance into my car. My car that gives me freedom. I'm ready to work. Bring it.
This was the perfect introductory job for me. It was the mid-90's and juicing fresh veggies and making smoothies of every variety was THE thing to be doing. I've since talked a lot about how this experience, combined with two years at Starbucks and a lot of bartending, means that - in life - I've got beverages pretty much covered.
So without further ado, and in honor of summer - the biggest mistakes folks make when doing home smoothies.
- Adding ice in an attempt to thicken. This doesn't work. Don't do it. Ice gives you a temporary result that creates slush melt in a matter of minutes. Ice does not equal thickness. Stop now.
- Not using enough liquid. For a 16 - 20 oz. smoothie, you need about 6-8 oz. of juice. You're not going to have a medium to blend within if you don't give your blender enough liquid to work with. Love your blender - give it enough liquid.
- Wheatgrass NEVER goes near your smoothie. Often people wander into a health-kick moment and think, I'll just add that jazz to my smoothie and then I don't have to really taste the wheatgrass, 'cause it's blended up in all that other fruit and stuff. No. Stop it. This doesn't work. What you end up with is 20 oz. of wheatgrass to enjoy instead of the 1 - 2 oz. that you were trying not to taste.
- Brewer's Yeast - it works the same way as wheatgrass flavor wise. Calcium mellows flavor, Vitamin C creates a slight tang, lecithin granules never really fully blend. Think before you try it, and I'd say always keep your probiotics sacred and separate. Supplements are great in smoothies if you wanna blend them in, just know you're infusing the flavor of that supplement into the smoothie. You're expanding your supplement, tasting it a lot, giving it more surface area - you know what I mean. :)
- 6-10 oz. of liquid. General rule of thumb is you want complimentary, yet contrasting flavors. We used a ton of Cranberry juice as a base in our smoothies at the Smoothie Shack. It adds sweetness and tang at the same time. Currently, I opt for Pomegranate juice in my fruit smoothies most of the time. It's my go-to. I also enjoy the Pure Cranberry, and the straight-up Unsweetened Black Cherry juice. Apple always works well too, and you can usually find it, organic, and in glass, which makes me super happy.
- Frozen fruits over fresh fruits for your standard smoothie. This is how you get that frozen texture that everyone's after. Toss in a small handful of frozen strawberries and a frozen banana and start there. Depending on how thick you like your smoothies, you can use between 1 and 2 cups of frozen fruit. I never use ice anymore, and prefer the thickening power of the frozen banana. To freeze your bananas, get a piece of parchment paper, peel your bananas fully, and pop them in the freezer on top of the parchment. In a day you'll have lovely frozen bananas that you break into pieces with your hand and throw in on top of the other ingredients.
- Layer your smoothie in your blender like this (bottom to top): liquid, a little fresh or frozen yogurt / or fruit sorbet (if you are using this - you certainly don't have to), frozen fruit, your frozen banana, and if you must, some ice chips. I think cubes are a big no, no. You're layering to promote the smooth blend. You don't want to create a big fight with your blender.
- Try NEW stuff! Add some nut butter, or if you're on the "green smoothie" kick, substitute fruit juice for coconut water and add some fresh kale or spinach along with some other fresh, green items (my favorite recipe for green smoothies is below). Just be prepared for a slightly different texture and lots more liquid when you're working with fresh items.
- Man-handle your blender. You're never going to get the thing to blend it all properly if you just sit there and stare at it. Grasp the lid to the bowl of the blender (while it's on) and shake that thing around. Make sure you have a good grip on it, but shake it up. (Disregard this memo if you are one of the lucky ones with a Vitamix or a Blendtec. You can do whatever the hell you want with those things - watch some "Will it Blend?" and laugh your face off).
- You must ALWAYS commit to at least rinsing all blender equipment off with hot water immediately after use. Otherwise, you'll hate making smoothies because there is nothing worse than trying to clean up a skanky-ass blender 8 hours after you've "smoothied." Just rinse. Do it. At the very least. Just rinse.
A few of my current favorites:
- 6 - 8 oz. pomegranate juice
- small handful of frozen strawberries
- an even smaller handful of frozen mangos
- 1 frozen banana broken into pieces
Blend and enjoy!
Go-to Green Smoothie
- 6 -8 oz. coconut water
- fistfull of fresh spinach or kale (torn up)
- half of a fresh, ripe avocado (if you can spoon it in, to help break it up a bit that helps your blender)
- half of a fresh green apple (cut up into chunks for ease of blending)
- Tablespoon of raw cacao nibs
- Sprinkle of Stevia
- Sprinkle of ground Cinnamon
Blend and sweeten to taste. Enjoy!
- 6 - 8 oz. whole, non-homogenized milk (that's my preference, but do what makes you feel good)
- 2 frozen bananas, broken into pieces
- Optional: squirt of chocolate syrup if you're the kind of parent who has this stuff on-hand :)
Blend and enjoy!
My FAVE from the days at the Smoothie Shack, it was the No. 8
- 6 - 8 oz. fresh orange juice if you can do it. Not fresh is fine too, but the fresh is super yum.
- 1 small-ish scoop of pineapple sorbet
- 1 handful of frozen strawberries
- 1 frozen banana, broken into chunks
- 1 generous squirt / Tablespoon full of your favorite honey
- 1 Tablespoon of dried coconut
Blend, make adjustments for thickness / sweetness and enjoy!
Smoothies are such a great option when you're hot, thirsty, hungry and tired. (Hello, Summer!) You can pretty much whiz up anything that sounds good and end up with a cool, friendly refresher.
Try adding your favorite nut-butter, fresh or flaked coconut, honey ... Whatever suits you. Give it a whirl. Enjoy summer!