Smitten with smoothies after blender purchase

  • Tue Jul 3rd, 2012 4:27pm
  • Life

By Jan Roberts-Dominguez

A freezer makes time stand still. And for anyone bent on capturing the fruits of summer, that’s golden.

I’m not a stranger to the concept. Say, for example, the berry harvest is coming on fast and furious, you’re aching to put up several batches of your favorite jam, but there’s a five-day conference in Poughkeepsie on the calendar.

If you bank a batch of fruit in your freezer now, you can get back to it when your life settles down. November perhaps?

Well, that’s exactly what I do. Instead of sweating through multiple jam-making sessions during the hottest and busiest time of my year, I freeze multiple batches of measured fruit/sugar/lemon juice that can be thawed and cooked into jam at a much later time.

But until last winter’s acquisition of a Magic Bullet blender system ramped up my interest in fruit smoothies, I wasn’t into stockpiling an inordinate amount of seasonal fruit beyond that needed for my annual preserves, plus some cereal-topping extras.

That’s about to change since my sweetie and I became fruit smoothie fools. Since our conversion took place in the winter months, we were forced to use commercially frozen fruit. And most of it is not the best of quality. Never mind the price point, which was equally horrific.

On the other hand, capturing the local crops ensures flavor and quality from the get-go. So I’ve cleared the decks in my freezer for all of the season’s berries, cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums and apples.

As far as the actual construction of the perfect fruit smoothie, I consider that a personal affair.

In our world, bananas are the deal breaker. Steve thinks they’re a tasty additive. Me, not so much.

Which is why the Magic Bullet blender system with its multiple blender jars and blade attachments makes life so simple. We can make back-to-back beverages in no time at all and still catch the sunset from our deck in a timely fashion.

Strawberry oatmeal breakfast smoothie

1/2 cup low-fat milk (or substitute soy milk)

1/4 cup rolled oats (instant are okay)

1/2 banana, broken into chunks

7 frozen strawberries

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon sugar or honey (optional)

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients. Blend until smooth. Makes 1 smoothie.

Berry-pineapple smoothie

1/2 cup pineapple-coconut juice

7 frozen strawberries

5 frozen blackberries (or Marionberries or other types, such as Loganberries)

4 frozen chunks of pineapple

1 or 2 cubes of Frozen Berry Puree (recipe follows)

1 teaspoon sugar or honey (optional)

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients. Blend until smooth. Makes 1 smoothie.

If you have this on hand in your freezer, it’s a fantastic addition to your smoothies.

Frozen berry puree

4 cups berries (such as raspberries, hulled strawberries or Marionberries)

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup fresh lime or lemon juice

In a food processor or blender, puree the berries with the sugar, water and lemon juice. Pour the puree into ice cube trays, cover, and freeze until firm (at least 3 hours). Remove cubes from trays and package in freezer bags.

Smoothie points to consider

• They pull double duty: quenching thirst and satisfying hunger at the same time.

• They’re a painless way to add fiber and antioxidants into the family’s diet.

• They don’t require a lot of fussy ingredients.

• Add yogurt, milk, flax seeds, silken tofu, wheat germ or protein powder to the blender for an extra nutrition hit.

• If you’re using frozen fruit, you won’t usually have to add ice cubes to achieve a frosty consistency.

• Experiment with the vast array of juices that are on the market to give your smoothies a tropical flavor.

• If you use too many different fruits in your smoothie, the flavor is going to be less distinctive than if you focus on three or less.

• Sparkling water adds a nice zing.

• For a boost in sweetness, consider a spoonful of frozen fruit juice concentrate.

• Make frozen fruit purees (recipe below, but basically, it’s four parts fruit to one part sugar and a splash of fresh lime or lemon juice) and freeze in ice cube trays until firm, then pack into resealable bags; great additions to simple smoothies.

Freezing fresh fruit

Most fruit can be frozen, but some (such as peaches, apricots, and apples) need to be treated with an antidarkening agent if you want to protect their color (more on that in a moment).

When you freeze fruit, you can pack it with no sweetener at all, or pack it in syrup or granulated sugar. Keep in mind that freezing alters the texture of fruit because the internal cell structure has broken down and the juice is released. So once it’s thawed, most fruit will be soft and not as beautiful to look at as pre-frozen fruit. For the most part, this isn’t a problem, because you’re either cooking with the frozen/thawed fruit, or you’re blending it in a smoothie.

Freezing fruit unsweetened

While many fruits are best frozen sweetened, most maintain high quality without sugar or syrup. Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, Loganberries and Marionberries (and other berries within the blackberry family) are all good choices for freezing unsweetened. By freezing the fruits or fruit pieces individually before packaging, it’s easier to remove just the amount you want from the freezer at a later date. Which makes for easy smoothie construction. To individually freeze, simply spread the fruit or fruit pieces on a tray, freeze uncovered until solid, and transfer to recloseable freezer bags or rigid containers. Store in the freezer up to 12 months without a loss in quality.

Freezing fruit in sugar

To freeze fruit in a sugar pack or “dry pack” — with sugar but no liquid — spread it in a shallow pan and sprinkle with sugar. Gently mix until the fruit releases its juice and the sugar starts to dissolve. Pack into freezer containers and freeze. Be sure and leave 1/2-inch of headspace for freezer bags or pint containers, and 1-inch head space for quarts to allow for expansion during freezing. For easier stacking, freeze filled bags flat on freezer shelves until solid, then stack.

Freezing fruit in syrup

The syrups used to pack fruit for freezing can be made in different concentrations; to prepare them, simply mix the ingredients until well blended, then chill before using. You can even substitute honey for a fourth of the sugar. When you pack the fruit, add enough cold syrup to cover — usually 1/2 to 2/3 cup per pint. For a 20 percent solution, heat together 4 cups water with 1 cup sugar (yields 4 3/4 cups syrup); a 30 percent solution is 4 cups water and 1 3/4 cups sugar (yields 5 cups); a 40 percent solution is 4 cups water and 2 3/4 cups sugar (yields 5 1/3 cups); a 50 percent solution is 4 cups water and 4 cups sugar (yields 6 cups).

Protecting fruit colors

Some light-colored fruits have a tendency to darken after cutting. Ascorbic acid (sold in drugstores and health food sections in most supermarkets, is a common antidarkening agent. Commercial antidarkening products containing ascobic and/or citric acids (and often sugar) are also available; look for them in your supermarket, usually where the canning supplies are sold. Lemon juice prevents darkening too, but the quantity needed often makes the fruit too tart in flavor.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of “Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit,” and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at janrd@proaxis.com, or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.