You know when you open up Instagram and discover that it’s National <insert random thing here> Day? Usually these events sneak up on me and before you know it, it’ll be 7pm and I’ll find out I’ve missed out on almost an entire day of celebrating wonderful creations like peanut butter (January 24th), pajamas (April 16th) animal crackers (April 18th) and watermelon (August 3rd).
This year I decided to be a little more proactive than usual when it comes to national days, and tomorrow is one that I wouldn’t dare miss: National Smoothie Day! You guys know my love for smoothies runs deep, so in celebration of my favourite type of beverage, I thought it would only be appropriate to celebrate with an entire smoothie WEEK, full of recipes, smoothie making tips and amazing giveaways! I hope you’re thirsty. ?
Here’s how it’ll work: Today, Wednesday and Friday this week, I’ll feature a new smoothie-related topic, a recipe, and giveaways from some of my amazing partners. All giveaways will close at 8:00pm PT on Monday June 27th.
First up today is a little smoothie SOS lesson. I’m sure that at some point, you’ve been a little overzealous with an ingredient or two, blended in too much ice, added too much liquid, or simply just didn’t end up with the delicious result you were hoping for. I’ve totally been there, and have done plenty of trial and error experimentation in smoothie making. I’ve learned many lessons first hand – for example, dandelion greens should never be added to smoothies in the same quantity as spinach.
The great news is that, as unpalatable, runny, thick or chunky as a smoothie may be, even if you think it’s a goner, there are always things you can try to bring it back to life. Here are my solves for some of the most common smoothie woes:
It’s too icy
Too much ice in a smoothie is never a good thing – it makes it difficult to drink the smoothie with a straw, dilutes the flavour when it melts, and depending on how fast you try to drink, can cause some major brain freeze. Ice can help to thicken smoothies and make them colder, but to avoid these problems, I like to freeze some of my other smoothie ingredients – greens, fruits, veggies and liquids. If you’re using coconut milk or almond milk as your liquid of choice, try using half and freezing the other half as cubes. Frozen produce creates the colder temperature you’d expect in a smoothie, and helps to add thickness when blended.
It’s too runny
Ice might be your natural instinct here, but as mentioned above it’s not always ideal. Some of my favourite thickeners are frozen fruits and vegetables (banana, sweet potato and carrots all work well), oats (instant or plain rolled oats) and chia seeds.
As I’m sure you know, chia seeds have the ability to soak up huge amounts of water (between 9 and 12 times their volume) in less than 10 minutes, and they create a thick gel as they do this. You’ll have to let them sit in the blender for a little while in order to allow for absorption to happen, but this is an easy fix if you have a few extra minutes.
Two other options you may or may not want to try are guar gum and xanthan gum. Both of these ingredients are commonly found in salad dressings, condiments and gluten-free products. They’re emulsifiers, which means that they help to keep all your ingredients from separating. The reason that they’re common in gluten-free products is because they behave similar to gluten protein which works as a binder, gives dough volume and elasticity and helps baked goods rise so that they’re not rock-hard.
As far as smoothies go, I’ve found that guar gum helps to add creaminess, xanthan gum thickens, and the two together make for some very voluminous smoothies. However, if you decide to experiment, know that a little bit goes a very very long way. Depending on your other ingredients, 1/8 teaspoon of each might be all you need. I don’t use these in all my smoothies, but if I’m making one to go, they do help to stop ingredients from separating. If you’re interested in learning more, Bob’s Red Mill has a great blog post that you may find useful.
It’s not creamy
This problem is often a result of over-icing, but it can also be due to using lots of very water-dense ingredients. The best fixes I’ve found for this are avocados, bananas (fresh or frozen), protein powder, yogurt (dairy-free if necessary), and guar gum (see above).
It tastes too green
First of all, if this is you, then I love your enthusiasm for adding greens to your blender! When I first got into green smoothies I was using very mild ingredients (spinach, romaine lettuce etc), and over time I suppose you could say my tolerance has increased to the point where I don’t feel the need to add much fruit at all now. For future reference, here’s how various greens rank on their flavour profile (in my opinion):
- Mild/Sweet: Romaine lettuce, spinach, baby greens, mesclun mix, leaf lettuce
- Medium: Baby kale, Swiss chard, cucumber (I know cucumbers are not leaves, but they still make great add-ins), mint
- Strong/Bitter: Curly kale, lacinato/dinosaur kale, purple kale, collard greens, basil, parsley, celery
- Possibly offensive if you’re not used to them: Arugula, cilantro, dandelion greens, beet greens, turnip greens
But what if it’s too late and you’ve already made a smoothie that tastes like a liquid salad? My best suggestion is to add banana, vanilla-flavoured protein powder, vanilla extract, pineapple, oranges, or any combination of these things to neutralize the green flavour and add natural, fruity sweetness.
Aside from fresh or frozen fruit, other natural sweetening options you can try are maple syrup, honey (if you’re not vegan) dates and other dried fruits. And, even though you might not think of it as a sweetener, cinnamon has a subtle sweetness that works really well in smoothies and helps boost the antioxidant content. (Cinnamon also aids digestion and helps to stabilize blood sugar which is especially useful if you have a lot of fruit in your smoothie.)
It tastes sickly sweet
A tart ingredient such as lemon or lime juice can help with this. Don’t feel you have to juice them either – I use a knife to remove the entire peel and rind and toss the rest straight in! In the future, know that some fruits like pineapple, bananas, mangoes and grapes have much higher sugar content than the same volume of berries, so try either scaling back on the sweet ones or doing a mix of both.
I keep getting bits of greens stuck in my teeth
The first secret to avoiding this is a really good blender (my Vitamix is my most-used kitchen gadget after a knife and chopping board), and the second is the order that you toss the ingredients into the jug.
I used to be all about putting everything into my Vitamix at the same time, but soon learned that this wasn’t a very good strategy – especially when kale is in the mix. The last thing you want is to strike up a conversation after breakfast with a co-worker, only to realize that you’ve got a huge green chunk stuck behind your teeth, right?
Here’s the order I like to use – think of it like BEDMAS, but for smoothies:
- Liquids first, always. This will help to get things moving in the bottom of the blender.
- Protein powder or any powdered nutrition supplements (if using). Protein powders can help make smoothies more creamy, and it’s best to mix them into your liquids rather than scooping them on top of your ingredients higher up in the blender.
- Soft/fresh fruit and veggies. Fruits and vegetables that aren’t frozen are easier to blend than those that are, and these will blend easily once they hit the blade.
- Nuts, seeds and superfoods. These go in after the soft fruit so that they don’t get stuck under the blender blade.
- Greens! Use whatever kind you like, and be sure to mix it up. (Here’s why.)
- Frozen fruit/veggies and dense produce. The reason these go next is to weigh down the greens. If the greens are at the top of the blender, they’d fly up to the lid when you switch it on and wouldn’t be blended properly. You want all that green goodness in your smoothie, yo!
- Ice. I like to add a couple of ice cubes to my first blend, but usually save the rest for tossing in once the other ingredients are completely smooth. This way you’ll avoid over-icing and diluting flavour because you can check out the texture before adding more.
With those problems solved, here’s a recipe that I’ve already tested many times (no fixes required!) I’m calling it a Skin Food Green Smoothie Bowl because it’s full of ingredients that have mega anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant superpowers. There are plenty of healthy fats and skin-boosting vitamin E here too (especially in the avocado and Brazil nuts). You may have seen papaya and pineapple enzymes as ingredients in anti-aging skincare products, and you’ll find them in their juiciest form here too!
Skin Food Green Smoothie Bowl
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 0 mins
Ingredients (1 serving)
- 1 scoop vanilla Vega Sport Performance Protein or Vega Essentials
- 1 big handful of fresh spinach
- 1 cup chilled green tea
- 1/3 cup diced peeled papaya
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen diced pineapple
- 1 tsp organic moringa leaf powder (I like Salome Naturals), optional
- 1/8 ripe peeled avocado
- 2 brazil nuts
- 8 ice cubes
- garnishes: fresh or frozen berries, hemp seeds and papaya slices
Add all ingredients to your blender except for the berries and ice. Blend on high until completely smooth.
Toss in the ice cubes and continue blending until all of them are crushed.
Pour into a bowl and garnish with papaya slices, berries and hemp seeds if desired.
And now, last but certainly not least, today’s giveaway!
Recently I discovered The Good Stuff, a new Vancouver-based company that creates frozen ready-to-blend smoothies. The produce in each cup is organic and, for the most part, locally sourced from farms with sustainable agricultural practices. They deliver the frozen smoothies in a reusable bin along with an ice pack and members can choose from a range of different flavours.
I had the pleasure of trying some existing and soon-to-be-released flavours, and my favourites were:
- The Thunderbird: a blend of yam, banana, blueberries, kale, spinach, hemp hearts and parsley
- Diesel Monster: Scottish kale, yam, banana, cinnamon, cacoa nibs, peanut butter and Vega Sport Performance Protein
The guys at The Good Stuff know their smoothie science well, so you don’t have to worry about any of the problems I talked about earlier in this post. And because they’re awesome, they’ve offered up a prize of 3 Thunderbird and 3 Diesel Monster smoothies to an Eat Spin Run Repeat reader.
Here’s how to enter:
- Mandatory blog post comment: What’s your best secret, tip or ingredient for making perfect smoothies every time?
- Bonus entry: Follow The Good Stuff and Eat Spin Run Repeat on Facebook. Comment back here letting me know you did.
- Bonus entry: Share this giveaway on Twitter, and be sure to tag me @eatspinrunrpt so I can keep track. Perhaps something like:
This giveaway is open to Vancouver residents for logistical purposes, but if you’re outside of #YVR, don’t worry because I have something for you to win too!
Another lucky reader (located anywhere in the world!) will receive a copy of my 30 Day Eat Spin Run Repeat Smoothie Challenge e-Book, which is full of 30 vegan smoothie recipes, pro tips and notes pages to track your progress. Check out all the details here, and to enter, simply answer the mandatory blog post comment question above.
You’ve got until Monday June 27th at 8PM PT to get your entries in for both giveaways. Good luck!