They're Better Without the Ice
Whether you think of it as breakfast on the run, a refreshing pick-me-up between errands or a cooling dessert on a hot day, a smoothie is a healthy and satisfying way to get some fruit into your diet. Many recipes call for adding ice to your blender to achieve that frosty consistency, but starting with frozen fruit is an even better idea because you won't have to worry about your smoothie "makings" going bad if don’t use them right away, and you won't be diluting all that wholesome fruit with water.
The Basic Technique
Making a smoothie with frozen fruit is a more streamlined process than working with fresh fruit. There's no peeling or pitting to do, and no cutting away bruised or damaged areas with a paring knife. The fruit is ready to use right out of the bag. Before you start dropping it into your blender, though, put in the liquid your recipe calls for first. This could be milk, yogurt, kefir or their non-dairy equivalents, or you might opt for fruit juice. Then add the fruit in stages, waiting for each addition to be pulped before you add the next. If you're using add-ins to make the smoothie more filling or more nutritious, those usually get added last. If the finished smoothie is too thick, you can add just a few more tablespoons of liquid to thin it.
Choosing Your Combinations
Supermarkets have all kinds of fruit in their freezers, and you can freeze your own when local specialties are in season, so the possible combinations are limited only by your imagination and the flavors you prefer. Most recipes start with a fruit that's high in pectin or fiber, such as bananas, pineapple, berries or mangoes, to give the finished smoothie a pleasantly thick texture. Once you decide which fruit you'll use as your base, add others with compatible flavors until you have enough. Use about a 60/40 ratio of fruit to liquid, to start. Increase the proportion of fruit from there, if you want a thicker smoothie and your blender seems up to the task.
A Few Worthy Add-Ins
Smoothies take just a couple of minutes to make, so they're an ideal meal replacement when your work or the kids' activities make it hard to sit down and eat. If you're in that situation, it's worth complementing the fruit with a few add-ins so the smoothie provides better-rounded nutrition. Some appropriate options include:
- Kale or spinach
- Quick oats
- Leftover cooked quinoa
- High-protein Greek yogurt
- Whey or other protein powder
- Peanut butter, or other nut butters
- Ground chia or flax seed
Don't Push Your Equipment
A blender is the core piece of equipment for smoothie making, but all blenders are not created equal. A big, commercial-grade Vitamix or BlendTec can make a large enough smoothie to serve 3 or 4 without breaking a sweat, whereas ordinary department-store blenders often struggle with more than a single serving of frozen fruit. If you aren't sure how well your model will handle the strain of pulverizing the fruit, start with one portion and work your way up. It's better to make your smoothie in two batches than to burn out the motor in your blender.
Fred Decker is a trained chef, former restaurateur and prolific freelance writer, with a special interest in all things related to food and nutrition. His work has appeared online on major sites including Livestrong.com, WorkingMother.com and the websites of the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle; and offline in Canada's Foodservice & Hospitality magazine and his local daily newspaper. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.