Category Archives: Smoothies

Healthy Vegan Shamrock Shake

Healthy_Vegan_Shamrock_Shake

My friend Emily has been making (and enjoying!) my Shamrock Shake recipe from my book, Smarter Fitter Smoothies. And since today is St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it was about time I share this healthy vegan smoothie on the blog for all the world to see.

I’m not sure what it says about me that I am so nostalgic for a milkshake made famous by a certain fast food chain whose name begins with “M” and ends with “s”. But there you have it. And there’s no need to feel bad about drinking this “milk”shake – it’s totally vegan, relatively low in sugar and full of healthy vitamin-rich greens (the smoothie gets its green color from spinach). Feel free to toss in some avocado for an extra dose of creamy green goodness.

Healthy_Vegan_Shamrock_Shake-2

Healthy Vegan Shamrock Shake

  • 1 ripe banana (preferably frozen, ~120g)
  • 1 cup spinach (~50g)
  • A few sprigs of fresh mint
  • 2 dates
  • 10 cashews (~10g)
  • a few ice cubes
  • water, nut milk or coconut milk for an uber rich Shamrock Shake experience

Combine everything a blender (I use a Froothie Optimum 9200) with enough liquid to blend and blitz until smooth. Garnish with a couple fresh mint leaves if you’d like.

215 Cals, 5g Fat, 44g Carbs, 4g Protein, 5g Fiber

Image credit: Emily L.W. Kern

Smoothie Bowls: Put Away The Straw and Get Out The Spoon

Smoothie Bowl

In this follow-up to Emily’s previous post on chia pudding, I present to you another discovery inspired by our seasonal meanderings: the smoothie bowl.

The concept is nothing new, indeed, I’ve been “eating” my smoothies with a spoon for months. But last February, fuelled by visions of pudding, marmalade, and sheep yogurt, we decided to try serving our traditional breakfast smoothie in a bowl. This was a total smoothie breakthrough! Not life-changing, but definitely smoothie-changing. Why? It’s all about Garnish Potential. A smoothie bowl maximises space for toppings, and also turns your smoothie into something that mentally might seem like a snack into a meal in itself.

A smoothie bowl should be thick and creamy (lest your garnishes sink to the bottom!). You can achieve this a number of ways. Great thickeners include:

  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Rolled Oats
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Psyllium husks
  • Thick yogurt

If you’re using seeds, grains and/or psyllium husks to thicken your smoothie, here’s a hefty tip: blend the smoothie for 20 seconds, then let the smoothie “rest” for a few minutes (this gives everything a chance to absorb the liquid), then blend again for another 20 seconds. The transformation is kind of insane – it goes from being a sort of thick but slightly grainy smoothie into something that’s almost like super smooth pudding. This might not suit everyone’s tastes, but for me it makes the smoothie seem more substantial. This is healthy emotional eating!

It also helps to use a good blender if you can – I’ve been working with the Froothie Optimum 9200 which is pretty dang powerful and also has a “20-second” button which is handy.

Smoothie Bowl

However you like your smoothies, I challenge you to try serving your next smoothie in a bowl and eating it with a spoon – you can do this with fresh juices, too. Think about it as an opportunity to slow down and really savor the awesome blend you’ve created. After all, digestion begins in the mouth, so it’s worth taking it slow.

Here’s my go-to smoothie bowl that I have for breakfast on most days.

Pineapple and Lime Green Smoothie Bowl

My favourite smoothie bowl toppings for this blend are berries, oats and coconut flakes, but anything goes – see my 16 Ways to Garnish a Smoothie for inspiration.

Serves 1

  • 1-inch slice pineapple
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • handful of spinach or other greens
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1/4 cucumber
  • 1/2 banana
  • 5g flax seeds (~1 tsp)
  • 5g psyllium husk (~1 Tbsp)
  • Garnish

Blender Method: Chop all the veg into chunks and add to the blender with the cucumber and pineapple at the bottom. Add a splash of water and start blending; add more water as needed to get it blending but you should use very little, otherwise your smoothie will be a little insipid (you can also use coconut water or other liquid of your choosing). Blend for 20-seconds, let it rest for a few minutes, then blend again for another 20-seconds. (You can add ice cubes to the second round of blending if you’d like to cool it down a bit.) Serve in a bowl garnished with smoothie bowl toppings of your choice. Enjoy!

Juicer / Blender Method: Juice the pineapple, lime, spinach, celery and cucumber (I use an Optimum 600 Slow Juicer). Add the juice to a blender with the banana, flax and psyllium. Blend for 20-seconds, let it rest for a few minutes, then blend again for another 20-seconds. (You can add ice cubes to the second round of blending if you’d like to cool it down a bit.) Serve in a bowl garnished with smoothie bowl toppings of your choice. Enjoy!

More smoothies that would work well as a smoothie bowl:

16 Great Garnishes for Smoothies

Smoothie Bowl

One of the reasons I like smoothies is for their garnish potential! Garnish also helps turn a smoothie from a snack into a complete meal. And I always keep extra smoothie garnishes handy so that I can garnish as I go. Come on, you know your kitchen table has totally been missing a garnish station.

Breakfast of #Imbolc champions. Chia pudding smoothie bowls. All of the garnishes. And tea. #froothie #jumpstart15

My favorite smoothie garnishes are as follows – what would you add to the list?

  1. Pumpkin Seeds – Let’s face it, pumpkin seeds are a great garnish for everything.
  2. Coconut Flakes – What’s not to love? They are crispy tasty fantastic. For some reason most grocery stores don’t seem to stock this (don’t try to substitute with desiccated coconut) but Amazon has quite a few options and it’s not very expensive.
  3. Sea Salt – Salt actually brings out the flavour and sweetness of the ingredients used in the smoothie. You could even get fancy and rim your smoothie glass with salt!
  4. Jumbo Oats – Classic, also good blended INTO the smoothie itself.
  5. Swiss Muesli – A little fancier than straight up oats and usually brings with it other tasty garnishes like seeds and dried fruit. Don’t spend lots of money buying this stuff; make your own custom Homemade Muesli Blend.
  6. Goji Berries – The most overhyped dried fruit in the universe, but they’re pretty and look so nice on green smoothies! Hefty tip: soak the goji berries ahead of time; they can be discouragingly chewy. Goji berries are sold all over the place now, alas, for a hefty price tag; if it’s only the color your after, dried cranberries make a nice substitute.
  7. Bee Pollen – Little crunchy morsels of honey sweetness. I’ve been a little obsessed with this stuff since I discovered it in France last year. I try to stock up whenever I go back, but for those of you who aren’t France-bounce, you CAN buy bee pollen elsewhere (after all it’s not like bees are a strictly French thing!) – there are lots of options on Amazon.
  8. Acai Powder – Allegedly increases energy and “vitality”; I just like it for its bitter berry tastiness. I use Naturya Organic  Acai Powder.
  9. Maca Powder – Malty sweet goodness originating from a tuberous root grown in the highlands of Peru. I’ve been using Naturya Organic Maca however I’ve recently cut back my usage when the company (very responsibly) informed me of unethical business practices and biopiracy which have made maca a bit taboo and difficult (i.e. expensive) to source. Use your best judgement here!
  10. Spirulina – Most people blend this happy protein into their smoothie but I have actually developed quite a taste for the stuff and prefer it as a garnish so that I really know it’s there! I use this stuff a LOT and have been getting my Organic Spirulina in bulk from myprotein.com.
  11. Cacao Nibs – I like these in banana-based smoothies, or in a mint chocolate chip blend. I use Naturya Organic Cocoa Nibs.
  12. Grated beetroot – I use a  Kuhn Rikon Grater & Julienne Mandoline to make cool little beetroot matchsticks (see the picture below, made with golden beetroot).
  13. Puffed Grains – Rice, millet, amaranth, quinoa… I’ve been enjoying Biona Organic Amaranth Pops lately.
  14. Freeze-Dried Raspberries – I discovered these little morsels of crispy tart goodness at Waitrose; they’re kind of expensive, but they look so pretty! You can also buy them on Amazon.
  15. Granola – Try Mardi’s Maple Walnut Granola or go crazy with savory granola.
  16. Fresh fruit – Especially raspberries and blueberries.

Today's #smoothiebowl.

 

Recipe Review: Chia Pudding

Earl Grey Chia Pudding with Marmalade

Today my good friend Emily of sunroseclear.com is guest-posting on the chia pudding food craze. On Emily’s last visit (Imbolc 2015!), I gave her some top quality chia seeds from Naturya and sent her on a mission to experiment with chia pudding and report back on her results. Is it really worth all the hype?  

Monica and I are fashionably late to the chia party. Chia has been “so hot right now” for awhile actually, and Pinterest has long been trying to convince me of its virtues. When and why did our chia ambitions begin? My memory is fuzzy on this point (too much sloe gin?), but I think we started talking about chia as an option for smoothie enhancements. We both have a smoothie every day, and we both need more protein in our diet. So, why not? Chia ho! This is a short account of my early chia experiments:

1. Vanilla Chia Pudding

Vanilla Blueberry Chia Pudding

For my first chia pudding I looked to Choosing Raw for a basic recipe and used her 3 tbsp chia : 1 cup liquid as my pudding standard. For me this made enough for breakfast and an afternoon snack. Chia pudding is filling!

I found the basic chia, almond milk, vanilla, and honey pretty boring, even with blueberries on top. The texture is like tapioca pudding, which is not my favorite thing…but eventually I convinced myself they’re like the world’s smallest tea bubbles. That helped, but…onward!

2. Earl Grey Tea Chia Pudding

Earl Grey Chia Pudding with Marmalade

Pudding! Earl Grey! Cold! If you can use any liquid for chia pudding, why wouldn’t you use Earl Grey tea? This one went through a few test batches, and the ratio of milk to tea is a matter of taste, but here’s what I came up with:

Just mix it all up in a glass or jar and let it set for about 3 hours or overnight. I really squeezed the tea bag into my glass – and then used it again for tea! Sadly, while pretty, the orange marmalade garnish was too overwhelming a flavor.

3. Chia: Smoothie Ingredient

Strawberry Kiwi Beetroot Carrot Smoothie

As Monica has pointed out in her ingenious smoothie book (which I use all the time, seriously, she isn’t making me say this), bananas are a great smoothie thickener but also kind of a sugar bomb. Most of my daily smoothies still have a smidge of banana, but for a week I tried replacing it with chia. It definitely does the trick, especially if you let the smoothie sit for a few minutes. This is probably how I will use chia most often. More protein, calcium, and fiber for me!

4. Chia Smoothie Pudding

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Chia Smoothie

I know I’m not the first to think of it, but making a chia pudding using a smoothie as your liquid is pretty great. It completely replaced the simple pudding of my affections. You still get the tapioca texture from the chia, but with lots of healthy fruit and veg – and no additional sweeteners.

That said, it also has dessert potential. I made a Peanut Butter and Jelly Chia Pudding from a peanut butter, banana, oatmeal, and almond milk smoothie. Chill for a few hours and swirl some strawberry jam through. A nice dessert version of the sandwich classic.

Verdict: I’ll certainly keep adding chia to my morning smoothies for the nutrition boost and possibly explore some other chia desserts.

Monica’s Notes on Nutrition: I felt compelled to add some commentary on the nutritional value of Chia Pudding. As an example, a chia pudding made with 3 Tbsp chia, 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk, 2 tsp honey and 1/2 cup of blueberries has 333 Calories, 19g fat, 18g fiber, 42g carbs and 11g Protein. Compare this to, say, 50g of porridge with the same amount of almond milk, honey and blueberries: 308 Calories, 7.5g fat, 8g fiber, 58g carbs, 7.8g Protein. Those who are fat-phobic might scoff at the chia pudding, where ~50% of the calories come from fat. Chia has been praised as being a concentrated source of omega-3 fatty acids, but research shows that the body isn’t very good at converting these types of plant-based omega-3s into something the body can be used. Still, they are a source of fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals so they’re not going to do you any harm. I like how Katie Trant (nutritionist and author of the Muffin Myth blog) puts it in her well-researched article Chia Seeds: Healthy or Hype? – “Chia seeds are without question very healthy, but they’re not a miracle.” And probably not even life-changing.

Follow Emily’s chia antics – among other things – on Instagram, Twitter and her blog. And look out for more chia experiments to come: chia trifles, chia parfaits, chia jam… what else? Share your chia inspiration in the comments!

How to Make Awesome Smoothies in ANY Blender

Making berry smoothies

These are the days of Blentec, Vitamix, Nutribullet and now Froothie entering the fray. It seems like everyone’s all about their super power blenders, myself included – my Optimum 9400 blender cost more than my first car! (Granted, it was a pretty crappy car.) And while I have never once regretted my blender, I totally get that others may feel their money is better spent elsewhere (paying the rent, taking a cruise, going to SpoonFest…).

For folks with more economically-priced blenders, it might be really frustrating to go searching for smoothie recipes only to find that they’re all made with super gadgets – what can they do with their humble machine?

Well, a lot, actually. For example, my friend Emily has been making some terrific smoothies from my book Smarter Fitter Smoothies and getting great results with her soooo nifty Kenwood Smoothie 2GO. It retails at £29.99 and does a very fine job of blending carrots, pecans and other tough ingredients, making it a very worthy competitor to the Nutribullet. It’s not terribly useful for soups, and it won’t grind rocks, but for its purpose it’s pretty good, so why not?

Smoothie  Making

For folks like Emily, and other people who have more conventional blenders, I’ve put together a list of ways to make an awesome smoothie in ANY blender, and I’m psyched to be sharing that list over on Mardi’s blog today. If you’ve been struggling to create smoothies that qualify as “awesome”, do check it out!

How to make an awesome smoothie in any blender [eatlivtravwrite.com]

Make Your Own Damn Vitamin Water

Make your own damn vitamin water! I will be showing you how soon in an upcoming blog post on smarterfitter.com. #froothie #juicing #JuiceFeast #jumpstart15

My favourite way to stay hydrated lately is to make my own “vitamin water” using fresh pressed juice from my slow juicer and lots of good old fashion H20. There’s something so super cheerful about having a pitcher of this on the table. The juice is made from beetroot, pineapple, apple and lemon, but you could easily mix it up to include any fruits and vegetables you want. I recommend always including a bit of lemon and lime, though, because they’re nice!

Making my own "vitamin water" with the #froothie #optimum600 slow juicer. #JuiceFeast snackage. Recipe to come.

The recipe is inspired by Jason Vale, who includes this in his 3-Day Juice Program as an uber liver cleanser / blood purifier / life awesomeizer. It makes about 1 liter putting you well on your way to achieving the 1.6 liters of water that the NHS recommends we drink per day (or 2 liters if you’re a dude).

DIY Vitamin Water

  • 1/2 raw beetroot
  • 1/2 apple
  • 2 inch slice of pineapple
  • 1 inch slice of lemon or lime
  • 3/4 liters water
  • 1 sports bottle, flask or pitcher

Juice the beetroot, apple pineapple and lemon (I use an Optimum 600 Slow Juicer, pictured above). Mix with the water into a large bottle. Drink!

And in case you’re wondering, yes it travels well!

DIY vitamin water for my journey today. (And a cup of @teapigs Darjeeling.) Getting the eff back on track. #juicing #travel #pun

Tropical Spirulina Yogurt Smoothie

So it seems spirulina makes smoothies look like something out of Ten Forward. This is cool to me. #trekkie

The Neptune green appearance of this spirulina yogurt smoothie would make it a fitting item on the bar menu at Ten Forward (or the Chalmun’s Cantina if you’d like). The super sci-fi color comes from – you guessed it – the combo of yogurt and spirulina. Meanwhile, the addition of pineapple and banana make it delicious and refreshing.

Why this is good for you:

  • Banana is loaded with potassium
  • Spirulina adds iron, magnesium, protein and B12 to the party
  • Yogurt adds more protein, plus live cultures, calcium and vitamin D
  • Just half a banana and a small slice of pineapple means this smoothie isn’t a sugar bomb

This smoothie is inspired by the Passion 4 Juice Master, one of the highlights of Juice Feast. This smoothie uses whole pineapple rather than juiced pineapple so it can all be done in the blender (I use a Froothie Optimum 9400).

Spirulina Yogurt Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 200g plain natural yogurt
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1-inch round slice of pineapple, skin removed and cut into chunks
  • 5g spirulina (about one heaped teaspoon; I use Naturya spirulina)

Method

  1. Put everything into the blender (I use a Froothie Optimum 9400) and blitz until smooth. Serve on ice and enjoy!

 

Ultimate Evergreen Spirulina Smoothie

Ultimate Evergreen Spirulina Smoothie

This is one of my go-to post-swim breakfast smoothies that gets its awesome coniferous color from spirulina, a blue-green algae that I’ve been enjoying in my smoothies lately. Spirulina is touted for its high concentration of plant-based B12 and protein, making it a pretty cool supplement for vegans and vegetarians. Now, this could all be in my head, but I actually feel better for it – this spirulina smoothie after a swim seems to give me enough oomph to power through til lunch (including a pre-lunch CrossFit session as is my routine these days).

How does spirulina taste? Let’s be honest here: it’s an algae so it tastes a bit like seaweed and takes some getting used to. I’ve actually grown to like its flavor. Plus, this spirulina smoothie has a lot more stuff going for it: pineapple, lime, avocado… serve it in a salt-rimmed glass, garnish it with some flaked coconut and make an event of it.

Ultimate Evergreen Spirulina Smoothie

This spirulina smoothie features prominently in the 7-Day Juice Feast. It’s made by juicing pineapple, apple, cucumber and lime then blending it with avocado and spirulina. Yep, you need a juicer and a blender for this one. But as the song says: it takes two to make a thing go right. And this spirulina smoothie is so so right. I’ve been using an Optimum 9400 blender and Optimum 600 Slow Juicer to get the job done and I can’t recommend them enough.

Ultimate Evergreen Spirulina Smoothie

  • 1/4 pineapple
  • 1 apple
  • 1/4 cucumber
  • 1/2 lime, peel removed
  • 1 tsp spirulina (I use Naturya spirulina)
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 heaped tsp psyllium husk (totally optional)

Method

  1. Juice the pineapple, apple, lime and spirulina.
  2. Blend the juice with the avocado, spirulina and psyllium husk until silky smooth.
  3. Serve and enjoy!

Hemp Protein Post Workout Smoothie

Hemp Protein Green Smoothie

This has become a favourite smoothie of mine as of late, especially after a good swim or a tough workout. Even without the hemp, it’s pretty killer. The base ingredients are pineapple, banana, spinach, celery, cucumber, lime and avocado, which when blended together taste like a tart-and-tangy treat, almost margarita-esque in its sweet and sour balance (hello salt-rimmed glass?). This is also good with a bit of fresh mint.

As far as post-workout nutrition is concerned, the smoothie has lots of good things going for it. The obvious element of good carbs, vitamins and nutrients from all the fruit and vegetables. Celery and banana in particular contain electrolytes (sodium and potassium) which you lose when you sweat. Meanwhile, the hemp and flax seed add a boost of protein. The avocado add fiber and make it creamy delicious.

When I swim in the morning, this is my go-to breakfast. It’s filling, nourishing, refreshing and super tasty. And to really splash out, garnish with coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, bee pollen and – my favourite – a pinch of good salt such as Maldon Sea Salt or some of that fancy Himalayan stuff.

Hemp Protein Green Smoothie

I make this smoothie by juicing the veggie bits then blending with the hemp protein powder, avocado and flax seeds, but you can just as easily put everything in the blender with a bit of water and blend away. The juicer and blender I’m using at the moment the Froothie Optimum 400 Slow Juicer and the Optimum 9400 Blender, which together have been cranking out super silky results, but other blenders and juicers will work, too.

Hemp Protein Post Workout Smoothie

Serves 1

  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1/4 pineapple
  • 1/4 cucumber
  • 1/2 lime, peeled (or juiced if you’re using a blender)
  • 1 handful of spinach
  • 15g hemp protein (I use Naturya Hemp Protein Powder)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 tsp flax seeds

Method

  1. If you have a juicer, juice the celery, pineapple, cucumber, lime and spinach. Blend the juice with the hemp protein powder, avocado, flax seeds and a few ice cubes until smooth.
  2. If you don’t have a juicer, make sure everything is cut into blender-friendly pieces. Put the pineapple, cucumber and lime juice at the bottom of the blender, then add everything else. Add a enough water to blend everything to a smooth happy consistency.
  3. Serve with your choice of garnishes.

250 Calories | 8g Fat | 13g Fiber | 38g Carbs | 12g Protein

Froothie Optimum 9400 Blender Review

Froothie Optimum 9400

As many of you know, I’ve been a devoted user of the Vitamix for years, so when the opportunity came along to try out the Froothie Optimum 9400 Blender I felt a little bit like I was cheating on an old and very dear friend. But I decided to have an open mind and see what this new kid on the block could do. A few weeks ago I stashed away my Vitamix and replaced it with the Froothie to see how it worked for my daily blending needs.

Daily? That’s right. I’m a pretty heavy blender user – I make smoothies for breakfast every day and often (at least once per week) use the blender for other tasks such as pureed soups, custard for ice cream, almond milk, cashew gravy and on special occasions, raw raspberry cheesecake. I need a blender that can withstand my serious usage and heavy pureeing needs.

Over the past three weeks I’ve been using the Froothie for those daily smoothies, and have also used it to make oat milk and banana “ice cream”. I have yet to try more interesting tasks such as custard or hot soups, but those items will certainly have their chance because I don’t intend to stop using the Froothie anytime soon. So far it’s been a stellar performer and has performed at least as well as the Vitamix. If it excels in one area I’d say it’s noise: the Froothie is noticeably quieter than my Vitamix. I also like the clear jug.

Froothie vs Vitamix

Perhaps one of the reasons I haven’t missed my Vitamix is because the Froothie is almost identical in terms of looks and function. Under the hood sees a few benefits, too. The Optimum 9400 has a 2,238 Watt motor (compared to Vitamix’s 1,492), a 44,000 rpm speed (vs 37,000), a 6 blade assembly (vs 4) and one jug that works for both wet and dry blending (all of my flour- and spice-grinding dreams come true). At £329, it’s also cheaper than Vitamix which starts at about £465.

Yes, it’s still expensive, but having spent this kind of money on a high power blender myself, I can tell you that I’ve never regretted my purchase. A good blender is enabling. You could use a cheaper blender but you wouldn’t get the same silky smooth results, and you wouldn’t be able to blitz up great stuff like kale, broccoli and beetroot into perfectly smooth smoothies. At best, you might get smoothie salsa! A good blender also enables you to do fun things like make your own nut milk, nut butters, flour, cashew cheese and other things that are only achievable with a good motor and some strong blades.

Hemp Protein Green Smoothie

That word “enabling” brings me to another surprise plus I’ve found with the Optimum 9400. The blender comes with a quaint little booklet called “Deliciously Raw” full of recipes for raw smoothies, soups, dressings, nut cheeses and desserts. The book is written by Carmella Soleil of the Sunny Raw Kitchen blog and the stories she’s included with her recipes are down to earth and really inspiring. I especially liked her discovery story of raw nut cheese, having been unimpressed early on, but then having her interest “rekindled” by Chad Sarno’s Cashew Cheese Au Poivre. I just love origin stories like these and it really helps put a commercial product like a blender in perspective. It also really makes me want to have a go at making raw cheeses – particularly the nacho “cheeze” to have with raw tostadas (with raw corn chips made in the food dehydrator).

All this raw healthy vegan stuff certainly is hugely appliance heavy, and for that I’m often in two minds about whether some of this stuff is the way forward. Regardless, I know from experience that smoothies and juices have had a positive impact on my own health and wellbeing, so I’m willing to let these gadgets into my life. And like most gadgets, it’s better to get something of quality, that works well, and will last. So far the Optimum 9400 is ticking all of those boxes.

Speaking of appliances, I’m looking forward to trying out the Froothie Slow Juicer next, particularly for its bonus abilities as a nut butter machine and a tofu maker. Stay tuned!

You can test-drive any of Froothie’s machines with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Check out the Froothie website to see their full line of blenders and juicers including the Optimum 9400 and the Slow Juicer.