Posts Tagged ‘smoothies’
Late spring and early summer usually remind people of warmer days, trips to the pool, the beach, and vacations to Disney World, but for some people, the sweetest summer memory is a trip to their local farm, or farmer’s market, to get a taste of some of the freshest produce around, grown locally and healthfully.
You can’t beat slicing up a freshly picked cucumber or a juicy watermelon for a cool and refreshing salad, or a handful of plump blackberries to add to a smoothie or top off a cup of Greek yogurt. Here’s a list of when and where you can expect some of your favorite summer veggies to become available.
Avocados: Known in health markets as a superfood, avocados offer a large number of nutrients and vitamins in a flavorful green package, with the good kind of fats that help your heart and your blood work as effectively as possible. They are an extremely fickle fruit, growing whenever they please, in warm climates, particularly in Florida, where many people have them in their backyards. Farmer’s markets all over the south will usually start to have them available toward the middle of the summer, but the earliest crops are likely to be hard. Let them ripen on the counter or in a paper bag until soft, peel them, slice them, and mash them into guacamole for your kids favorite Friday night Mexican dish, or chill the slices, sprinkle them with salt and pepper for a nutty flavored snack right and an energy boost right before your 3PM crash at work.
Berries: Another healthy favorite, the blue and the black berries offer antioxidants and a sweet burst of flavor, especially when picked right at the height of the season and allowed to sweeten in the warm summer sun. They grow wild all over the US, from New York to Florida, and farmers markets nationwide could feature these delicious fruits, or offer signs saying “Pick Your Own”. Use the berries to spice up a boring green leaf salad, or freeze them for pancakes during the fall and winter months. Canning is also a great way to preserve sweet fruits, blackberry and blueberry jam were perennial favorites in my Mom’s pantry as a kid. Try not to handle your berries too much before you eat them, the riper they are, the easier they bruise and become mushy, and their high water content makes them very susceptible to mold in the fridge, so be sure to use them or freeze them as soon as possible.
Cherries: Spring marks the arrival of the cherry blossoms in our nation’s capital, and those bright fragrant pink flowers offer up sweet red fruit as the summer arrives. Cherries are another great source of energy, and nutrients, and many varieties, be they sour or sweet, are available between the months of May and August.
Corn: There’s a anecdote that helped farmer’s gauge their corn as it grew in the early days of our history, “knee high by the 4th of July.” Summer picnics and barbecues often herald giant ears of sweet white, yellow and multi-hued corn with juicy kernels and bright green husks. This is the time of year where it is most often found down to $0.10 cents an ear or even less at your local grocery, but visit the farmers market for the best corn, I’ve found it to be particularly tasty in the areas of Iowa, Central Florida, and Virginia. Its available through most of the summer, but the best crop usually comes after the Independence Day holiday. Look for fresh green husks, plump ripe (not hard) kernels, and a sweet smell, with soft white floss. It was BBQ tradition in my house growing up that the kids would drag big boxes of corn out to the yard and strip every last strand of corn floss from the ears, while the adults had a chance to mingle and prepare the rest of the meal without us underfoot. It worked like a charm. We would inspect our individual ears like quality control officials, critiquing each other’s techniques and racing to see who could get the most corn shucked in the smallest amount of time.
Garlic: Globally, China is the world’s largest producer of garlic, growing more than 3/4′s of the world’s garlic (23 billion pounds) every year, but the United States has just the right climate for garlic as well, it is grown in every state except Alaska, and can grow often throughout the year depending on the climate, but the sweetest and most flavorful garlic comes during the summer months, particularly in Gilroy, California, which is the biggest garlic growing city in the US. If you are substituting fresh garlic for your normal garlic powder, 1/8 of a teaspoon of powdered garlic usually equals a single clove of the fresh stuff.
Limes: Limes are the only citrus fruit that are in full ripened flavor in the summer, and grow best in tropical weather in the state of Florida. The tangy fruit makes a great topping for fish on the grill or addition to marinades for your favorite chicken dish. Before peeling a lime to use it for its juice, roll it around on your counter-top under the palm of your hand with heavy pressure, breaking up the membranes inside the fruit and releasing the flesh from the rind.
Peaches: I love anything and everything peaches, (really….anything, perfume, the color peach, peach scented fabric softener sheets) but my SO and I experienced the best peaches ever during a drive through Georgia, (after staying at a great friends house!). When I hear peaches, I think Georgia, and for good reason. The best, most plump, sweetest fruit come from from trees that have full sun and WARM weather. Avoid peaches that are not just a little soft to the squeeze, or have yellow or green near the stem. Buy a bushel or two, or even a laundry basket full and make a months worth of peach cobbler! I’ll be sure to drop by for a taste.
Strawberries: Another of my favorite fruits, since I live just a few hours from Plant City, Florida where the land is dominated by strawberry farms. I am willing to walk, bend and lift, for HOURS just to pick my own perfect strawberries, and the ones sold in the grocery stores, while good, I find are often moldy, mushy, or still too GREENish, which leads to sour berries in my experience. Greenish strawberries never taste right, they only ripen to the best flavor while still attached to the plant and enjoying that sweet Florida sunshine. Pick your own, or be very scrutinizing when selecting “strawbs” at the farmer’s market.
Tomatoes: My grandfather had a green thumb for tomatoes. He grew them every summer, and I am still drawn back to those childhood memories at his house on Long Island New York when I crush a tomato leaf between my fingers and smell the spicy sweet scent. The delicate yellow flowers turn into hard green balls which deepen in color and flavor until a sweet, juicy and tender tomato is born. Make sure and see if you can try a tomato at the market before you buy it, even the prettiest tomato might be a little on the sour side, which isn’t always bad, since different meals and different flavors require different ages of tomato.
Watermelons: Available in 44 of the 50 United States, watermelons are a staple of summer fun. Their pink sweet flesh and sharply contrasted black seeds bring on memories of 4th of July fireworks and summer carnivals. Look for a fruit that has a solid “thunk” when you knock on it, with no serious dents or bruises to the rind, but they are the only melon type fruit that does not smell “melony”, even when at it’s ripest. The sweetest fruit comes from regions that have a good amount of difference in temperature between days and nights. Most melons planted in May are ready to harvest by the end of June.
Remember that most farmer’s markets, especially larger ones, follow some regulation, but most are considered “Mom and Pop” organizations, particularly roadside stands, so be aware of things like worms, fungus, and imperfections that you may not be used to seeing while in your local supermarket.And just like you would at the regular supermarket, be sure to wash and fully inspect any produce that finds it’s way into your home, before adding it to your recipes.
Click here for a link to help you find Farmer’s Markets all over the US, and check with your local school district or your local newspaper for information about co-op growing areas, or community gardens that will have produce available, sometimes as an even exchange program, or for work done at the farm!
If you have a blender, some fruit, some ice, and maybe a little bit of milk, you have a smoothie in the making. Smoothies are tasty, nutritious, easy to make, and can be a lot of fun as you experiment with different combinations, textures and flavors. Make a big batch of the recipe of your choice, and freeze it as a yummy sorbet for later use, or send it to school frozen in a 3/4 filled plastic bottle, (you don’t want to fill it all the way when you freeze it because it will expand and burst the bottle.) Smoothies can keep for up to two weeks in the freezer, any longer than that and they start to lose their flavor and with the milk in there you don’t want to risk spoilage.Here’s a couple of quick and easy recipes with a minimum of ingredients that you and your kids can put together in very little time.
Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
You Will Need:
1 ripe banana cut into pieces
1-1/2 cups of ice
1 cup plain/banana/vanilla yogurt
1-1/2 tablespoons peanut butter (chunky or creamy)
Add the ice, peanut butter and yogurt to you blender, blend on high speed until smooth. If the mixture is too dry add milk until it blends smooth. Add your banana and blend until completely mixed. Pour into a chilled tall glass, garnish with chocolate sprinkles or ‘Nilla wafers. Enjoy!
You Will Need:
1-1/2 cups frozen berries
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup ice
Blend all ingredients in blender on high until smooth. This recipe gives your immune system a great kickstart with the vitamin c of the orange juice and the antioxidants of the berries. It’s great in the early morning when you are all running out the door, or when that 2:30 dragging feeling creeps up after the ride home from school. It’s also a great treat after a Saturday soccer game or a tasty treat to make for dessert.
You Will Need:
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 cup ice
1/2 cup mandarin oranges
Blend all ingredients til smooth, add chaise lounge, Jimmy Buffett, crazy straw and tiny umbrella for instant karma fix.
You Will Need:
1 cup fresh strawberries
1/2 cup skim milk (or for a thicker treat heavy cream)
1 tablespoon Splenda or 2 tablespoons strawberry syrup
1 cup ice
Fat Free Reddi-whip
Blend all ingredients except Reddi-Whip until smooth, layer whipped cream and smoothie in a frozen glass, top with whipped cream and a strawberry for garnish.
You Will Need:
1/2 cup ice
1 can cocktail fruit
1/2 cup Cranberry juice
Blend all ingredients for a tart and refreshing smoothie that is great at the end of a long day and can easily be adapted for those who may not like cranberry juice, try regular fruit punch, Hawaiian punch, orange juice, apple juice, or anything that you’d like.
You Will Need:
1/2 cup of ice
1 large Meyer lemon, peeled, seeds removed, and segmented or 1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon Splenda
Blend all ingredients until smooth. The Meyer lemon is sweet and the pulp of the lemon gives this smoothie great texture and nutrient quality.
All of these recipes can be adapted according to tastes, allergies, and amounts. They are easily doubled or tripled for lots of kids, and most of the ingredients are easily obtainable at your local grocery store. Some quick and easy substitutions can enhance the nutrient value, such as Splenda for sugar, skim milk for whole, OJ with calcium or pulp instead of concentrated, frozen juice cubes instead of ice. Try adding flax seed or a vitamin packet for extra health benefits, or make the smoothies with a Boost or Slim Fast drink instead of milk for extra protein and more energy value for a meal replacement.
If you’re looking for a different tried and true smoothie recipe you can of course search the ‘Net, or there are several books available that are dedicated to the art of smoothie making since its inception as a great diet enabler. Here are a few links to check out in your search