Smoothies

Tonic makes several different smoothies, some based on seasonal fruit availability. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)

With summer moving out and schools back in session, a quick, tasty and healthy breakfast can be yours with just a whirl of the blender.

Smoothies have taken their place, whether for breakfast or as an afternoon pick-me-up. They are a healthy, nutritious drink whenever or however you choose to make one.

The beauty of a smoothie is that it takes almost no time to put ingredients in a blender. Plus a youngster can drink it in the car or on the bus on the way to school. Another bonus is that they stick with you — you're not hungry in an hour. Especially popular these days, we have the macrobiotic and health food movement of the '70s to thank for bringing them mainstream.

They are also one of the most versatile of drinks, especially when you make them yourself. Whether you're making a nutrient-dense meal replacement, a protein-packed booster or a refreshing icy treat, the combinations are limited only by your imagination and creativity. In other words, go for it. A word of advice: Just make sure the ingredients like each other and you don't end up with a greenish thick sludge.

Basically a good smoothie revolves around three things — a liquid, a base and a cold element, like ice or frozen fruit There are dozens of liquid choices. Think coconut water, juices, cold coffee or tea, kefir, kombucha or milk. A plant-based milk also works well. Orange or lemon zest can add a hint of flavor. If you're feeling a little sassy, sprinkle in a shake of cinnamon, turmeric or ginger. Adding a super powder like chia, hemp or flax can notch up the drink's nutritive value.

Once the liquid is in the blender, add fruit and/or produce. Favorite smoothie fruits include strawberries, blueberries, mangoes, bananas (a smoothie staple), pineapples and my favorite, peaches. Throw in the rest of that avocado you didn't use up, a handful of spinach or kale, romaine, snippets of parsley, mint or basil. Try adding peanut butter or another sort of nut butter. A tablespoon or two of honey or maple syrup adds flavor and a touch of sweet. Yogurt, cottage cheese or tofu are great additions and add protein. A few cubes of ice or some frozen fruit should go in last to pull everything into the blades for a more even mixing. That's it. What could be easier?

If you are pressed for time in the morning, you can even make smoothies ahead. Mix them up and pour into a glass jar with a lid. Before you drink it, give it a good shake.

Smoothies can also be frozen. Thaw them in the refrigerator and then give it a good shake. Of course they are the best when freshly made.

If you are out and about, a great place to go for a smoothie is Tonic Juice Bar, across from Mayo Clinic Hospital–Saint Marys campus on Second Street. Theirs are based on everything being fresh, no powders, no mixes and no pre-mixes. Your choices can be a challenge because there are eight or nine options, plus you can also put together your own. Says Jen Richards, manager, "We always have a special as well."

These past weeks that special has been Flower Power, which brings together peaches, bananas, peanut butter, green tea powder, mint, cocoa, milk and maple syrup. She describes it as an "interesting, delicious mix."

Richards' favorite is the Green Mango Mojito, a combination of mango, spinach, coconut water, mint, avocado and lime.

In any case, smoothies offer us all limitless choices, from the simple to the complex. It's healthy and delicious to experience them all.

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