Whip Up A Delicious Smoothie — No Recipe Required

Photo: Courtesy of Food52.
Here at Food52, we love recipes — but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

If you have a blender and enough energy to press the "on" button, you can make a smoothie. And, if you have a little creativity and some inspiration, you can make one that is great-tasting and wholly satisfying, too.

A good smoothie is a thing of beauty. It can be a bright and cheerful reminder that spring has arrived even though those early mornings are still a bit chilly. More importantly, you can make it while you're still half asleep, tuck it in your bag, and sip it during your morning commute. If you can plug in a blender, you can whip up breakfast.

Not every combination of ingredients
, however, makes a great smoothie. It requires a balance of ingredients: a bit of sweet fruit, some nuts or protein powder for substance, and enough liquid to blend it all together smoothly.  

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Photo: Courtesy of Food52.
Here’s how to make a perfect smoothie every time: 

1. Pick your greens
.
 
Smoothies are a great way to pack in vegetables. If you’re feeling bold, go for heartier greens like chard or kale. If you like your smoothies a little milder, opt for spinach, which is more sweet than bitter. Add some arugula for a bright, peppery flavor. A good rule of thumb is to stick to just 1 or 2 cups of roughly chopped or torn greens; otherwise, you might end up feeling like you’re sipping blended grass. 

2.  Chill out. 
Since ice can make your smoothie watery, use frozen fruit instead — it lowers the temperature while adding flavor and sweetness. It's not news that frozen bananas are surprisingly creamy — they'll make your smoothie taste a bit more like a milkshake. Start with using half a frozen banana — they tend to overpower most other flavors in your mix. If you’re dreaming about lying on a beach instead of begrudgingly piling on sweaters, substitute a handful of frozen chopped mango or pineapple for a taste of the tropics. Adding a few spoonfuls of berries is another great way to pretend summer is a bit closer. For a single smoothie, use about 1 cup of fruit total.

3. Get nutty. 
Nut butter is to smoothies what hot fudge is to sundaes — not necessary but always a good idea. Nuts add protein and fat, making your smoothie filling enough to get you through the morning. A tablespoon of almond butter is subtle enough to match most fruits and greens, while peanut butter is perfect when you’re in the mood for something sweeter and more powerful.

Photo: Courtesy of Food52.
4. Add some liquid. 
To blend your smoothies, you’ll need some liquid. Nut milks like almond or hemp are a bit lighter, but you can also use regular milk, too. If your goal is to rehydrate, substitute in some coconut water or orange juice. You’ll just need enough to liquefy the ingredients in your blender, which is usually about 1 cup. Feel free to mix and match liquids and try adding yogurt for extra protein and tang. 

5. Mix it up.
 
Smoothies can be more than just frozen fruits and milk. You can add in lime juice, roasted sweet potatoes, canned pumpkin, pomegranate juice, or even avocado. They're also perfect for sneaking in healthy but less-than-delicious super foods into your diet. Try adding a spoonful of flaxseed, chia seeds, or even spirulina powder. If you need a heftier smoothie, add a scoop of protein powder. You can try flavoring your smoothie with freshly grated ginger or turmeric and ground spices like cinnamon or cardamom, and if you're looking for a sweeter drink, add honey, dates, agave nectar, maple syrup, or fruit preserves.

6. Blend it. 
Put all of your ingredients in the blender and let it go until you have a smooth mixture. Greens need some extra time, so this will likely take at least a minute depending on the speed and strength of your blender. If the smoothie isn’t coming together, just add more liquid and give it a stir (remembering to taste and adjust for sweetness and flavor, as adding more milk will dilute your mixture).

7. Drink up. 
Pour your drink into a tall glass, insert a straw, and get your day started!

Need some smoothie inspiration? Here are a few of our favorite combinations:

Roasted sweet potatoes + dates + tahini + caradamom + almond milk
Frozen pineapple + spinach + mint + coconut water
Avocado + lime + kale + soy milk
Berries + chia seeds + coconut milk
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