Introducing Smoothie Week! How to Make Your Own Smoothies

Hey there, DinnerCakes readers! It’s been about two months since our last theme week (Rainbow Week), and Chef Edwin and I thought it was time for another!

I know people always say things like “I can’t believe it’s July already,” but seriously, I can’t believe we’re in the middle of summer! Because I was raised around the ocean, I think that for me summer isn’t really official until I’ve been to the beach… which I still haven’t yet. However, I think an ice cold fruit smoothie could certainly help me get in the mood a little more!

blueberries

Like most things having to do with cooking, everyone has their own taste preferences. We’ll give you the basics of smoothie making in today’s post, and then follow up with some tried and true variations and new ideas throughout the week.

Liquid
Something that’s very basic but actually quite easy to forget when making a smoothie is that it needs sufficient liquid – or else you’ve just got frozen fruit puree that you’ll need to eat with a spoon. If you’re a connoisseur of smoothie establishments, consider the one you like best and why. My husband and I are Smoothie King die hards, which we feel has the most delicious and thick smoothies, while we have friends who swear by Tropical Smoothie, which seem a lot less thick and more juice-based to us. Experiment and decide whether you favor smoothies with a milk, soy milk, juice, yogurt, or even flavored water base.

Fruit
There are a variety of fruit combinations to try, so the most important question to ask yourself is whether you’d like to use fresh or frozen fruit. In my experience, frozen fruit is the best option for a perfect smoothie:

– Without frozen fruit you’ll need to use ice to get the cold and thick consistency you’re looking for. Ice seems a little like filler to me when you could just use frozen fruit to get the same effect.

– Frozen fruit is typically packaged when the fruit is at its prime. There’s no guesswork trying to decide whether the fruit at the grocery store is ripe or not.

– You don’t need to worry about checking for mold, making sure it’s firm or soft enough or making sure it hasn’t gone bad. When it’s frozen, you just store it in the freezer to enjoy whenever you like.

– Frozen fruit doesn’t need to be washed. For those of us who never have enough time in the day, this can easily save five minutes.

– If you have a Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s or other wholesaler membership, you can buy frozen fruit in bulk. If you can spare the freezer space, bulk is always less expensive.

– Frozen fruit usually contains less moisture, so it lends itself better to a puree than fresh fruit which may make your smoothie too runny.

As for what kinds of fruit to use, there are a variety of great combinations. However a staple for me is one frozen banana. Bananas lend themselves well to the thick consistency that I like best.

blue afternoon

Thickeners
If you’re using frozen fruit, that may be all the extra thickener you need. If you’re using fresh fruit (since it is summertime and all), throw in a handful of ice cubes. Yogurt and frozen fruit concentrate can also serve as great thickeners.

Sweetener (Optional)
As I mentioned above, my husband and I love Smoothie King. Maybe this is because, like most smoothie establishments, they load up their beverages with sugar and sweeteners to make them irresistible! You can recreate this in your own kitchen by adding a few tablespoons of sugar or, even better, simple syrup. For me, I typically try not to include extra sweetener and just let the fruit do the work… but sometimes I can’t resist.

Supplements (Optional)
Because smoothies can be considered a health food (when done right), maybe people take the opportunity to add supplements and/or powders. This can be anything from protein or weight gain powder, to flavor blends, vitamin supplements and fiber.

bottom of glass

Now that you have a basic understanding of the most important smoothie components, let’s start off the week with a very basic smoothie – we’ll get more adventurous as the week goes on! This smoothie is not particularly sweet, as I’m only using a banana and blueberries. If you’re looking for a basic cold and refreshing smoothie with mild flavor, this one is perfect!

Blue Afternoon
makes one serving

1/2 cup cold skim milk (substitute soy milk if you like a little more kick)
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 medium frozen banana

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until desired consistency is reached. Add a few ice cubes if a thicker consistency is preferred.

Happy Fourth of July!

Hope you have a very happy and safe fourth of July full of cook-outs, cold ones and fireworks!

Here are some photos of the last really great fireworks display I saw – two years ago at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom (Morgan and I were on our “Engagement Moon,” i.e. newly engaged).

fireworksatdisney4

fireworksatdisney3

fireworksatdisney2

fireworksatdisney



Enjoy your day, DC readers! Tune in next week for the start of our next fun theme week since Rainbow Week!
And here’s a 17 second clip of the big finale:

From 2007_07_04

I love to cook, I love to bake (or wow, this would be the worst side hobby ever, wouldn’t it?). What I hate is waste. Blame my Mom who drilled such principles into my head for as long as I can remember, but there are times when I will consider NOT making something if I think I’ll end up with leftover ingredients I won’t use. Whenever I can substitute an ingredient for something I already have, I’m a happy man.

Greek yogurt is a thicker, richer variant of yogurt that you’ll occasionally find being called for in recipes. I never have this lying in my fridge, but I’ll often have regular yogurt. Take a cheese cloth, fold it in half and cover a medium sized container; securing it with a rubber band. Dump your yogurt on top and let it strain in the fridge for 8-12 hours, depending on your desired consistency. If the cheesecloth begins touching the strained liquid then carefully remove the cheese cloth, drain the container and re-secure.

Whole-milk yogurt gives you the creamiest, but you can easily substitute a lower fat yogurt for health (and the price of richness).

Our 200th Post! Plus Red, White and Blueberry Trifle

Today is an exciting day at DinnerCakes because we get to celebrate! Not only is it our last work day before the start of a long holiday weekend, it’s also our 200th post! (Insert blaring trumpets here!)

berriesandcake

A lot has changed around here since Edwin and I first started documenting our culinary adventures, making messes in the kitchen and packing away more food than we probably should.

If you’re new to DinnerCakes, we invite you to take a look around and enjoy a sample of our favorite recipes and most memorable recent posts:

Chef Edwin’s Favorites

Heather – Ghost Baker’s Favorites

poundcake

But we also can’t forget, fourth of July weekend is upon us! Every year my husband wants to throw a party… not a fourth of July party, but specifically “America’s Birthday Party,” with party hats and all. Unfortunately he hasn’t yet moved from the idea stage into the logistics stage.

I’m all for celebrating America’s birth, but I’m not so much into cakes decorated like flags and such – that’s why a red, white and blue trifle works perfectly for me!

pound cake slices

This time of year is all about berries that burst with color, and I think they look amazing in a trifle bowl. I made a Double-Vanilla Pound Cake from Sur La Table’s “The Art and Soul of Baking.” You can even see the little vanilla bean flecks if you look closely. It’s an amazing book that offers a deep dive to those looking to get serious about baking. You can find the pound cake recipe reprinted here – the only thing I changed was that I used non-fat plain yogurt instead of sour cream and I used all-purpose flour instead of cake flour (removing two tablespoons of all-purpose flour and replacing it with two tablespoons of corn starch, to imitate cake flour).

berries in trifle bowl

The pound cake turned out perfectly and full of delicious vanilla flavor. I also added vanilla pudding, fat free Cool Whip, and loads of blueberries and strawberries to my trifle. I tried hard to restrain myself from adding any extra sugar or sweeteners like coconut, jam or a spritz of juice. While these things can definitely make your trifle either more sweet or tart, the fresh berries, vanilla pound cake, Cool Whip and pudding give it enough flavor that it doesn’t need any extra.

What are you making for fourth of July festivities?

trifle

Red, White and Blueberry Trifle

Double-Vanilla Pound Cake (or pound cake of your choice, cubed)
1 pound strawberries, washed and sliced
1 pint blueberries, washed
1 3 oz. package of vanilla pudding
2 cups milk (for the pudding)
1 regular size container fat free Cool Whip

Combine 2 cups of milk with vanilla pudding mix on medium heat and bring to a boil, stir constantly. When done, set aside to cool.

Cube pound cake and add a layer to the bottom of the trifle bowl. Surround with a layer of strawberries and blueberries. Drizzle some pudding over the pound cake, followed by three dollops of Cool Whip. Repeat the layering process until complete. Scoop a large dollop of Cool Whip on top to complete. Serve chilled.

Food Photography – Oatmeal Raisin Scone

I’m not much of a breakfast person, usually grabbing a quick bowl of cereal or skipping altogether (yes, I know, horrible). Occasionally, however, I do enjoy something a bit more. This is a oatmeal oatmeal raisin scone is from a simple and delicious recipe in the Joy of Cooking. Mmm…

Oatmeal Raisin Scone