Wednesday, May 8, 2013

4 Steps to Easy Smoothies + Peach Almond Butter Smoothie Recipe

For years, I had mixed feelings on smoothies. They seemed like a healthy, yummy breakfast or snack option, but for some reason, I just couldn't get into them. I was "smoothie-challenged".

If I made them at home, I never got the hang of what to add to make them tasty or filling. Then I'd make questionable choices.

Me at 10:30 AM: Hello, Fig Newton and second cup of coffee!

I tried them at smoothie "places". They were yummy, but maybe I was ordering the wrong thing. I'd look up the nutritional facts and feel appalled.

You mean I've already consumed that much sugar and it wasn't on pancakes and syrupy goodness? I now question my daily decision making.

Then, I started seeing all of these smoothie recipes on Pinterest and I heard my friends say they love them. I finally decided to try them earlier this year. I was full-swing into my half-marathon training and hungry all of the time. I was trying to eat healthier but just couldn't get it together, especially on the weekends. I did better during the week, but my mornings were too rushed to prepare and eat breakfast. Usually, I would grab something random like a bagel, granola bar, or banana to take with me. I finally decided that smoothies could help solve my morning dilemma in 4 ways:
  • Smoothies can be easily consumed while driving – I use those tumblers with straws that you see everywhere now. It’s much easier than eating other items while driving.
  • They can be prepared quickly - Drop in a blender, turn it on, and pour concoction into said tumbler before heading out.
  • They are relatively inexpensive - I was already buying many of the ingredients already. I purchased a few varieties of frozen fruit I didn't have on hand, and I was ready to go. Make sure you have a semi-powerful blender (mine has a smoothie setting).
  • If made with the right stuff, they can be a filling, yummy breakfast with at least 1-2 servings of fruit. Also, if you're like me and don’t drink milk, many smoothie recipes can help you get more calcium.

As with most endeavors, I started with Google. However, the information I found was vastly beyond my knowledge of health foods. Recipes with protein powders and exotic berries from the rainforest were a little beyond my skill level (I'm not knocking these, by the way. I'm sure they have great benefits. I'm just not knowledgeable on them). I wanted to find simple recipes that used natural ingredients that I already know.

I found this basic strawberry banana yogurt smoothie as part of a collection of smoothie recipes on Super simple! I used 0% plain Chobani Greek Yogurt and I was pleased with the result. I started using this as a base for other fruits - peaches, pineapple, berries, mango, etc. I started doing these fruit/yogurt smoothies a couple of times per week and they helped me get my mornings back on track.
To mix things up, I looked up some other ideas beyond fruit and yogurt. I found this smoothie recipe from 100DaysofRealFood (a blog I love to read about more natural, real foods) that used peanut butter. It was very filling, and was a nice mixture of salty and sweet flavors. After trying that, I came up with my own peach and almond butter smoothie (below), which had a nice, light taste.
Now I was feeling bold and decided to try "unconventional" ingredients. I threw a few spinach leaves into the mix and was surprised that I couldn't taste them over the fruit. You just have to get past the green color. I tried kale and personally didn't care for it. I thought it added a bitter taste. I tried light coconut milk, which I loved (I'm obsessed with coconut). I even tried avocado, which sounds scary, but made the most deliciously creamy smoothie ever (for real).
With all of these options, it was difficult for me to figure out how to combine them all together into a smoothie. Based on the recipes was I reading, I identified common themes and put together a simple template so to speak, to help myself and other “smoothie challenged” friends:

The options above are not all encompassing. Experiment with any ingredients you like. The template just gives me a framework to understand how they can all fit into smoothie. Keep in mind that I drink smoothies as my entire breakfast. For a lighter smoothie, many people do a fruit and liquid only smoothie - just "drop the base."

Lame, I know. I couldn't help myself.

Also as promised, here is the recipe for the peach almond butter smoothie I mentioned above, which includes all of the components above. I enjoy it for breakfast.
Peach Almond Butter Smoothie

1/2 cup milk, any kind (I use skim dairy milk since I don't get enough calcium)
  • 2/3 cup juice (peach or white grape peach juice is fabulous, but any light flavor juice like apple works)
  • 1 tbsp. almond butter (I like Trader Joe's almond butter with sea salt, but unsalted is obviously healthier)
  • 1 cup frozen peaches (fresh can be used, but you may want to add ice)
  • 1/2 banana (fresh or frozen)
  • Handful of fresh spinach leaves (optional - pictured without spinach)
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Serves 1. Pour all ingredients in a blender gradually. It helps to pour liquid first, then some of the frozen ingredients. Blend, stir, and add more frozen ingredients. Repeat until fully blended. Add more liquid if it is too thick, or add more ice if you like it "frostier".
If you're “smoothie challenged" like me, I hope you enjoy and find this helpful. Look for future smoothie recipes to come - perhaps even those scary avocado smoothies! Do you enjoy smoothies for breakfast or a snack? What are your favorite smoothie recipes and ingredients? Any tips on how I can make them better (perhaps those protein powders or exotic berries from the rainforest)?
*I am not a certified nutritionist or health professional. Shocker! I'm simply sharing recipes and tips that I enjoy personally.

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