Our family is growing in many ways... Growing in numbers, knowledge, parenting skills, growing in love, in our faith, growing our culinary skills (if you can call it that), growing without gluten (some of us), growing green...........

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Green Smoothies

I've been making the family green smoothies for a while now, at least a year. We were instantly sold when we started because...well, they taste just like regular smoothies! I get lots of questions about how I make them, lots of requests for my "recipes." Well, I'll give it a go...but I'll warn you... I don't really follow an actual recipe. And once you get started you'll see why.

And because of this, hopefully this post won't be all over the place and will make some sort of sense!

Why are green smoothies important? For one, who doesn't like a good smoothie?! Secondly, how many of you consume a lot of greens on a daily basis? Greens are so nutritionally dense, but most of us do not eat them daily or even often. They're packed with all sorts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, fiber, phytonutrients...just such an incredible amount of goodness!! And if you don't eat them because you don't like them... Or if you only eat them on occasion in a salad here and there, which isn't as much as you should be getting... Green smoothies are the perfect way to get the goods and enjoy your food!

When I started getting into green smoothies, I got a lot of ideas and recipes from the Green Smoothie Queen (if she's not called that, she might as well be), Victoria Boutenko. I read over her websites, read a couple of her books about smoothies, and got started! You don't need to know all the background info on green smoothies to enjoy the benefits, but if you want to, her books are great for that. She goes into WHY they are so good for you, what happens when you blend the greens rather than just eat them (or even cook them), and lots of other really interesting bits of knowledge. I happen to enjoy learning all of that, but I know some folks will just want some smoothies that taste good. She does, of course, give you lots of recipes. She has websites that give recipes, but you'll find even more in her books, some of which are linked at the bottom of this post.

I'll be honest, I haven't been too adventurous with trying the more savory smoothies, but we love ourselves some fruit-filled green smoothies. I'll share what I usually put in ours, as well as a few links to Boutenko's recipes and books.

The beginnings of  a great smoothie...

If you think you won't like green smoothies, start slowly. You will be surprised at how much spinach or kale or other greens you can add without tasting them, but feel free to start with smaller amounts if you're worried about the taste. I'm sure before long, you'll be adding more and more. And you'll be creating your own favorite "recipes."

We use a BlendTec blender, but you can use whatever you have! If you have a blender that isn't quite as powerful, your greens might not get quite as pureed. And you might have to peel some of the other fruits - or else end up with some small chunks of peel, which you might not mind. With a more powerful blender, you can leave the peel on and the seeds in some fruits (kiwi, apple, leave the middle core in pineapple). Work with what you have and figure out what you like as you go. I didn't have a fancy blender when we started; in fact our blender was not a great one, but it still worked just fine! We got lucky and received our awesome blender from some very generous family members, and we have loved that thing since day 1 of using it.

Many of our smoothies start with a similar base:
Pineapple, mango, banana, and water.
We then add greens and other extras to get the flavor we want!

In order to make a blender full of smoothie, enough for the whole family, this would be a typical recipe. Obviously, if you're just making smoothies for one or two people, decrease the amounts.
2 bananas
1/2 fresh pineapple
1/2 fresh mango
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup water
3-4 Tbsp chia gel and/or 3-4 Tbsp ground flaxseed (basically about 1 T per person/serving)
Couple handfuls of spinach or kale
The other day we added some unsweetened coconut, and it was great!
Sometimes we use kiwi instead of blueberries, or we leave out both.

And blend!
With our blender, we have a smoothie setting, so I use that and then sometimes blend a little more afterwards.

Another favorite:
2 bananas
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen blueberries
OJ (as much as needed to get thickness you desire, between 1/2-1 cup)
3-4 Tbsp chia gel and/or ground flaxseed
Bunch of greens of choice
Splash of lime juice (this is a great addition to this smoothie!)
Yogurt, optional (we sometimes add, sometimes leave out)

I'm guessing on the amounts of fruit and liquid. I just dump and blend. I add more if needed and check the consistency before serving, to see if I need more liquid if it's too thick, etc. You can save leftover smoothie for later. The boys don't mind it the next day. I like it less but will still drink it. As it sits, the greens will oxidize some and this will affect the taste some. You might not even notice it, though, and it also depends on the amount of greens, the other ingredients in your smoothie, and how long it sits (refrigerated, of course). I wouldn't recommend saving it longer than a day.

We've also enjoyed smoothies with apples and cranberries. Here's a recipe from one of Boutenko's books. I might have adjusted things some, but her recipes are a great starting point.
1 cup greens (she also adds 1 cup parsley, but we did not do this)
3 cups apples
1 cup blueberries
1 cup cranberries
2 cups water
If you use frozen cranberries, thaw them a little bit first because they are really hard when frozen. Sometimes we need to add a little squirt of agave because this isn't a very sweet smoothie, but you could also add banana or it might be just fine for you! It depends on how sweet the other fruits are when we make it.

Someone's getting excited about this green smoothie!
VERY excited! He also had a little fun getting into the blueberries mama was trying to get into the smoothie!


If you find a smoothie really isn't sweet enough for you or the greens are coming through too strongly for your tastes, there are many options to sweeten the smoothie without adding sugar...
Dates (add in at beginning to blend well)
Agave (this is great because agave dissolves well in cold drinks)
Bananas! They sweeten well without adding a big banana taste
Stevia, if you use this sweetener (just a tiny amount!)

If the green color turns you off - or you think your kids won't try a green-colored smoothie, add in some darker colored fruits. Blueberries are great for this! A handful will turn your smoothies purple. 

Green smoothies don't have to be *green*!

As for which greens to you, there are more options than you probably think!
Spinach, all sorts of kale, dandelion greens, beet greens, chard, romaine lettuce, celery greens, bok choy, carrot tops, and so much more! You might notice that some of the veggies you buy may come with greens attached. If you usually toss the greens, DON'T. Save them for smoothies! When we make kale chips, we don't use the tiny leaves, and instead of tossing those, they also get saved for smoothies.

Try to vary your greens to get the max benefit. Greens are not only a great source of fiber, but they will also add protein to your smoothies, and probably more than you think. Different greens also have different amino acids; varying your greens will give you a good balance of essential amino acids. There is an abundance of nutrients in greens, and most of us do not consume these wonderful foods often enough. I can't go into all the great benefits we can get out of them. There's a reason Victoria Boutenko wrote a couple books on the topic!

As for liquids, you can vary that based on your preferences. Use nut milks, milk, juice, or our favorite..water! Yogurt or kefir are other good additions. Add smaller amounts at first, and add more if too thick. It's easier to thin a thick smoothie than to make one thicker! Keep in mind that if you use juice, you're also adding more sugar.

And as far as fruits go...the sky is the limit! You can throw in just about any fruit you might like. Try not to use too many at one time. We try to keep it to just a few fruits in a smoothie.

Use other add-ins to get extra benefits... Chia seeds/gel, ground flaxseed, coconut (shredded, oil, from a coconut you cracked open), cacao (raw chocolate), . I'm not really one to use protein powders, but you could add that as well. There are lots of things you can add to get an extra boost of nutrition!

But there really are NO RULES. Try all kinds of combinations to find what you like! If you have other smoothie recipes you know you like, simply add some greens to boost the nutrition. You really probably will not notice the difference!

Some more recipes from Victoria Boutenko can be found here and here.
And be sure to look into her books, too! Green for Life has some great information, as well as lots of recipes. And Green Smoothie Revolution: The Radical Leap Towards Natural Health is another good one, with even more recipes. She has recipes for kids and beginners, savory recipes, recipes for those that are really adventurous, and even green pudding recipes! This lady really knows her stuff! What I've mentioned here doesn't even begin to get into all there is to know and try.

Some other sites for smoothie recipes:
Weelicious - Here's a fun "spookie smoothie" (COLD ingredients work best with this one!)
Passionate Homemaking

And in case I haven't actually said it already...WE LOVE GREEN SMOOTHIES! You can get lots of nutrition, and it tastes great! If you don't like the taste of greens, this is the perfect solution for you! My boys love knowing there are greens in the smoothies...but that you can't tell. Aiden helps me make smoothies a lot, and he just thinks they are supposed to have greens in them! If you feel the need to sneak greens to your kids, do it. Once they like the smoothies (which they will), let them in on the secret! They'll probably think it's really cool, and they're learning that they like things they either think they won't or that they don't normally like on their own. What a great lesson!

Drinking it all up!
So, grab some fruits and greens and get to blending! Feel free to share your favorite recipes, as well, in the comments section. Happy blending!

1 comment:

Carolina Ivey said...

thx.. Why Juicing Helps You Lose Weight ? Freshly juices are rich in minerals, vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants, give your body the nutrition it needs and help to avoid hunger pangs, the easier losing weight will be.