Friday, September 13, 2013

Phenomenal Tip: Fast Track Your Smoothies

I have been serving the kids a whole lot of smoothies as after-school snacks since the start of the year. My kids are always hungry every time they get off from school, and I used to give them carbo-rich foods like brown rice toppings or pasta. But now that the two girls are older, and consequently their dismissal times have also been pushed back and they now only have about an hour before training, so a light snack that is easily digested is ideal. Their usual merienda of pasta or rice is not suitable anymore as a full tummy that is busy digesting all those carbohydrates will leave them sluggish and feeling heavy.

Hence, a little adjustment had to be made to give them after school snacks that are filling and yet are also easily digestible. Smoothies are our new favorite after-school snack!
I make smoothies almost everyday, and sometimes even twice a day – one for the kids' pre-workout, and another one for after training recovery. It is easier to prepare rather than the time-consuming effort of preparing pasta sauces. And another upside to this is I also lessen the amount of gluten (from the pasta) that my kids take in.

Green smoothies are also very popular nowadays. It looks intimidating for the uninitiated, but it is quite easy to do. They are simply just made up of 4 things: greens, fruits, liquid, and add-on nutrients like flax seeds, chia seeds, whey protein, etc. There are a lot of combinations available if you google it. But you don’t really have to follow any recipe. Just go by taste – blend and make adjustments as you go along the way.

Here are some tips on how I make my smoothie preparation a breeze:

1. Clean and store. I don’t have time to go to the grocery several times in the week just to buy freshly delivered produce. So I do the next best thing. I clean all the leafy greens and other vegetables as soon as I get home. Wash and dry them properly and store them in individual plastic bags/containers. I use Lock & Lock tight seal containers to store my smoothie ingredients, one batch worth of of assorted greens per container.

I do this once a week, right after I buy the ingredients. Not only did this set-up saved me time, it has also saved my wallet. Leafy greens easily wilt, discolor and turn soggy if left in the fridge for a day or two. But I discovered that if you clean and dry them before you store in plastic containers, they tend to stay fresh longer. I no longer have to throw out wilted leafy greens since.

2. Freeze my Fruits. I buy fruits in large quantities, enough to last the entire week; and usually, by the time it gets towards the end of the week, the fruits are sad-looking already. So, I have resorted to washing the fruits as soon as I get home, and then I freeze them right after.

The strawberries and blueberries are washed and frozen right away. Mangoes and melons are peeled and cubed. Everything is stored in serving size portions for easy retrieval when it’s time to make smoothies.

Another benefit of using frozen fruits is that it adds texture without me having to add so much ice, packing in more nutrient per ounce.

But I draw the line when it comes to bananas. I have discovered that bananas discolour and turn brown when frozen. I am sure it does not affect the taste, but I feel uncomfortable putting a soggy, discoloured fruit into my smoothie, so I always use fresh bananas. To always make sure that I have a steady supply of ripe bananas. What I do is to buy 2 half bunches of bananas. One bunch that is yellow and ready to eat; and the other is slightly green, waiting to ripen in two-three days.

3. Use natural sweetener. To make the green smoothies more palatable to my family’s palate, I have to be realistic and admit that natural sweeteners (fruits and honey) have to be added for them to look forward to drinking it. I consider that as a compromise, and not defeat. I usually add a tablespoon of honey per serving, but this also depends on what other fruits I have already added.

4. Add power-ups. I love adding more nutrients to my smoothies, and I do so by adding yogurt, chia seeds, ground flax seeds, etc. The addition varies with what’s in my pantry, but my smoothies are never without chia seeds and yogurt. Some just sprinkle chia seeds directly to the smoothies, but a friend of mine shared that chia seeds gel are better to use.
To make chia seed gel simply add about a tablespoonful of chia seeds to ½ cup water/milk/fresh fruit juice and stir with a spoon. Keep inside the fridge for 2 hours or overnight to make chia seeds gel. The phot above only shows the chia seeds gel right after I mixed them.  It will turn into a gelatinous mixture in the next hour or two.

5. Place your blender where it is easy to use it.. I use to hide my blender in my pantry and have it taken out everytime I make smoothies, which is to say not that often. Out of sight, out of mind? Maybe. But now that I have a designated smoothie section on my counter-top and it just takes me less than 5 minutes to prepare a delicious and nutritious smoothie for my family, I prepare it on a daily basis.