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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Green smoothies

I'm no stranger to smoothies. The first ones I made, decades ago, tended to involve frozen strawberries and/or bananas, and some kind of dairy product - buttermilk, yogurt, skim milk.... The idea was to have a yummy and easy way to get some fruit and some dairy into your diet. But green smoothies? These are utterly new to me. And the ones H made for us were delicious - good enough to warrant further research and experimentation.

They seem to be part of the "raw foods" movement. Not something I know a lot about, or want to know more about. Give up cooking? No way! I understand that the inventor is a none-too-svelte Russian woman who has such bad teeth that she is unable to chew vegetables without pain; hence she began to throw them into smoothies, along with the fruit. Should this inspire confidence?

The very simple premise is that you make an ordinary fruit smoothie and add fresh greens to the mix. The usual proportion is something like 60/40 fruit/greens. The remarkable result is that as long as you don't go overboard with the greens (usually lettuce, bok choy, kale, spinach, arugula, watercress, chard, or parsley) the flavor of the fruit will prevail and the greens will provide two things: the typical bright green color, and a je ne sais quois "grassy", or "fresh" quality.

You can follow a detailed discussion of the trend and find a bunch of sample recipes here. As you will discover, practically anything goes.

The ones H made began (and these are proportions for two) with a blender stuffed 3/4 full with torn kale leaves (no ribs) to which she added 1 T flaxseed oil and 1 cup almond milk. She liquified this, then added 1 peeled Valencia orange, a banana, a handful of blueberries, and a couple of ice cubes. Then she blended it all together til smooth. The dominant taste was of the orange. With not unpleasant grassy overtones. I commented that I thought you could serve it up as a cold soup at a fancy dinner and get raves. It really was that good.

I'm wondering about the almond milk, though. It's true that it's tasty and sweet, but it's not as calcium-rich as regular milk or yogurt which, for me, might be a better choice. After all, I have no issues with dairy. I think the flax is a good idea (I'm using the seed, not the oil); it's any easy way to sneak in some healthy Omega 3's. The greens are a novelty to be sure, and full of healthy vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but I need to remember that I don't have any special problem with eating greens in other ways; I make lots of soups, stews, stir-frys. I don't see a need to suddenly make all my smoothies green ones.

But I'm intrigued. I plan to play around with it. Not go overboard - all things in moderation, after all. If you try it and make a good one, be sure to post the results here!

Update: though I'm already a little bored with these I am interested in the comment about the lemon. I made some wonderful butternut squash soup today (an "orange smoothie", if you will) and felt it needed a little something at the end. A splash of orange juice brightened it right up; some fresh lime juice would have done the same. I am reading (simultaneously) Bill Buford's "Heat" and Sally Schneider's "The Improvisational Cook". Both have me thinking a lot about how flavors work together - balancing the sweet, the salty, acidity, heat. For these smoothies to be successful they have to really work on every level; it's not enough just to cram a lot of nutrition in there. I'm thinking that developing a repertoire of savory "shakes" (soups, really - more like gazpacho) might be a direction to move in. But I also think it's a texture thing; you can't just puree everything you eat unless your teeth hurt nonstop.


Blogger ibby said...

Nice blog!

Dairy can cause digestive problems for many. Dairy is a whole separate topic, but there is evidence out there that its not really that great for us.

Also - don't underestimate the benefits of the raw part of the green/veggie intake, whether in a smoothie or salad, or whatever. Cooked veggies are still good (better than a cheeseburger) but not as good as raw, which makes the smoothies a good vehicle.

3:36 AM  
Anonymous beecher said...

I used the ribs and stems of the kale this morning along with the leaves with no ill effects at all.

8:58 AM  
Blogger holly said...

I had used the ribs and stems of the kale in the one that I made you guys (you just didn't notice it), and I had put in flaxseed oil as well.

D and I had one this morning with kale, dandelion greens, 1/2 a small avocado, 1/2 bandana, 1 orange, almond milk and some ice and blueberries, and that was good. The avocado makes it more thick and silky...but yummy.

I think that it's missing the point to think that this would take the place of normal greens during the day, but how many people have heaping bunches of raw greens for breakfast? No one that I know...that's for sure! To me, that's one of the great thing about them (among other things)...you start off the day on the right foot.

1:56 PM  
Blogger sixty-five said...

I think I went overboard on blueberries today. I did a peach/blueberry/romaine/almond milk/flax version. Tasty, but sort of a strange not-quite-chocolate color. Book club met shortly afterwards. Oddly and uncharacteristically, I wasn't tempted by the cookies. Coincidence? Hmmmm.....

4:23 PM  
Blogger ibby said...

Not a coincidence! Though I'm not totally cured of my love of sweet things, I eat a lot less.

Also, Joyce just reminded me, dark leafy greens are a great source of calcium. You don't need the dairy for that (or for much of anything really).

Joyce, where are you? I know you're reading this and we need your expertise! Post the recipe for the one you just told me about, with the tahini...

5:50 PM  
Anonymous joyce said...

So much for being a silent observer.. thanks ibby!

Yes - research does show that calcium from dairy is not easily absorbed, but calcium from these dark raw greens is immediately noticeable. You'll see how strong your nails get in just weeks! (Also tahini is excellent for calcium)

SO .. I get the raw organic tahini (come in jars like peanut butter) and my recipe of the moment:
swiss chard (3 big leaves)
half an avocado
1 TB of tahini
1 banana
3-4 honey dates
1/4 canteloupe (include the seeds if you have a super blender - like vitamix)
2 handfuls of ice
1 cup of water

Now the real trick is to try to get up to 1 lb of greens a day in about 1 qt of green smoothie. If you can maintain that for 30 days.. you'll get some crazy results. (greys going away, wrinkles fading, losing 10+ pounds, all digestive problems going away) You'll boost hydrocholoric acid production in your stomach.. and that means food will be broken down more efficiently - which will allow your body to increase absorption of nutrition, and eliminate waste.... well I could go on and on :-) First..to finish the experiment on myself!

3:39 AM  
Blogger ibby said...

Please do, go on and on! Tell us more! Joyce, you must start a smoothie blog, with daily nutritional words of wisdom.

12:31 PM  
Blogger ibby said...

Just added a big lemon wedge to the old kale + orange + banana + almond milk + flaxseed oil standard. makes it even more refreshing. and lemon is very cleansing. highly recommend.

11:37 PM  
Anonymous beecher said...

We'll try it with lemon in the morning! Rind and all?

11:46 PM  
Blogger ibby said...

I don't have a vitamix, so i cut off the yellow rind, leaving as much of the calcium-rich white stuff as possible. Though i was going to see if my blender could handle the rind...

11:50 AM  
Blogger ibby said...

Oh, and I think there may have been some misinterpretation about hurty bad teeth being at the root of this invention. It is about enabling your body to best digest the most nutrition possible, which is what the blending does.

11:56 AM  

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