15 January, 2012

Karen Knowler: How to Set Up Your Own Super-Smoothie Bar At Home

I've so enjoyed writing this article for you - this issue is a real fun one, I think! As many of you know, I LOVE smoothies and I'm also pretty good at creating and making them, so this issue I thought I'd share with you my guide to creating a smoothie bar in your own home that's good to go at any time of day and is quick and easy to use.

Why smoothies? Because they're fast, quick, fun, delicious and they are great at any time of day and can often deliver a hefty dose of nutrition in a tasty and beautiful package!

My kitchen sees a lot of smoothie action, whether it be green smoothies for lunch or nut milk-based smoothies for supper... and I hope that with the help of this issue, yours will soon too!

Step 1: Tool Yourself Up. The only piece of equipment you need to make a great smoothie is, of course, a blender. Now, as may or may not know, all blenders are not equal! Certainly you can get away with a High Street blender costing around £20-£30 ($25-$50) for a fair amount of time if you treat it kindly, but if you've got the money and the passion then the best place you could invest your money for the long haul is without doubt in the very "hardcore" blender that is the Vita-Mix 5200 series or the Turboblend VS. Yes, they are pricey (especially here in Europe), but they are soo worth it. I am fortunate enough to own one myself and like many others who are also proud owners of these beautiful machines I really do think it's one of the best investments in my health I have ever made. I use it every day and it's my favourite piece of equipment in my entire kitchen. All that said, if budget does not permit you to spend nigh on £400 ($450)  on this particular piece of kit, then all is not lost, just spend the most you can on something that's got good reviews on Amazon or similar and when you've got that part sorted, you're ready to go!

Step 2: Gather Your Ingredients. Before you start let's take a look at what you could have on hand to make your smoothies with.

* Fresh fruit (in a bowl and/or fridge)
* Fresh greens (in your fridge. e.g. spinach, watercress, lettuce, kale, chard etc.)
* Frozen fruit (in your freezer)
* Ice-cubes (in your freezer)
* Sweeteners (e.g. dates, agave nectar, maple syrup [not raw], honey, stevia etc.)
* Flavourings (e.g. mesquite meal, carob powder, cacao nibs/ powder, vanilla pods/ essence etc.)
* Superfoods (e.g. maca, bee pollen, green powders, hemp protein powder, etc.)
* Nuts and seeds and/or their butters (for nut milks)
* Cartons of coconut water/ milk
* Oils (not necessary, but some people like to use hemp, flax or coconut oil in their smoothies for EFAs)

Obviously fresh fruit, greens, nuts and seeds are easy to buy in the shops these days, as are some of the other more specialised foods. But for those ingredients that are new to you or that you can't get hold of locally, the good news is that all of these ingredients are now easy to buy mail order wherever you are in the world.

If most of these are new to you, then the ones I recommend you start off with are: dates for sweetening and agave nectar (light) if you want something new to try; vanilla pods or essence and/or mesquite powder for flavourings; bee pollen (for non-vegans) as an incredible superfood and coconut oil for fat if you'd like some.

Whatever you choose, make sure that you gather all your non-refrigerated ingredients into one place so that they are all together, which leads me nicely on to...

Step 3: Pick Your Spot. Whether you choose to make your smoothies at home or at the office, picking the right spot is key. Why? Because if it's somewhere awkward to get to, or not near to the sink or a million miles from your fridge, ingredients or glasses, then you'll feel much less inclined to actually use your smoothie bar! In my current home my smoothie is simply one quick turn away from my sink, and in my previous home, my blender was located with my sink to the left, my smoothie ingredients to the right on a shelf above (you could have yours in a box or tray if you don't have shelving in your kitchen) and my glasses were located up to the right in a cupboard next to the ingredients. And the fridge was just 2 steps away. Even though this all sounds like perfect common sense, it's amazing how many of us make life difficult for ourselves and dot everything all over the place! By keeping these 5 things all close to hand, you will now officially have your "bar" in place and will be all set to get creative.

Step 4: Choose Your Recipes. Now that you have your blender, your ingredients and your actual "bar" all set up, what are you going to make? Well, this is where previous eZines come in. So far I've published probably around 20-30 different smoothies recipes in the past issues, so they should get you started! If you'd like to be super-organised then why not find some smoothie recipes you love (or would love to try) from recipe books and photocopy them (or print the eZine recipes off) and file them in those clear files you bought and you'll be all set to go.

Step 5: Get Smoothie-ing! I generally recommend that if you are very new to smoothie making that you start very simply, as I did, with pure water, a couple of small bananas (or one big one) and one handful of fresh fruit of your choice. Strawberries work well, as do any berries, or peach, nectarine, pineapple or mango. All of these are good and very straightforward to buy and use. From there, when you have your confidence up and are ready to try new things, you can start to get a bit more experimental and add in other more unusual ingredients such as the powders and potions and even a little bit of oil if you'd like to (ideally no more than 2 teaspoons per pint). Personally I keep oils out, but then getting enough calories is not my concern as my needs are pretty low in that department! One step beyond that is to experiment with using nut or seed milks for a base instead of bananas, which is where your nut milk bag will come in. This is really easy to do, but I'll keep the "How To" for another article which will follow next issue. Until then, I'll be expecting you to set your smoothie bar up to perfection ready and eager to go for next week!

Do we have a deal?!
Karen Knowler, The Raw Food Coach publishes "Successfully Raw" - a free weekly eZine for raw food lovers everywhere. If you're ready to look good, feel great and create a raw life you love get your FREE tips, tools and recipes now at www.TheRawFoodCoach.com.

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