Tropical Blueberry Smoothie

Ah, Vitamix, you Christian Louboutin of blenders…

I heard the rumors. I read the blog posts. But I ignored them. I avoided recipes that required liquifying kale. Instead I worked my decade old Cuisinart into the ground and dreamt about making smoothies that didn’t have green bits floating inside of them. Then one day something arrived at my doorstep…

No, not Little Guy.

vitamixIt all started when I left my kids with their dad and mine to attend a day long writer’s conference at Rosemont College. While I spent the day luxuriating in writerly stuff, my family spent the afternoon in Target where they were wooed by a Vitamix demonstration. Frozen desserts, green smoothies, ice cream, hot soup. Apparently it was quite the exhibition because they couldn’t stop talking about it.

Then my dad came to visit a few days later with one in the back of his car. WOW. I was totally shocked, in no way expecting such a generous gift.

So, of course I made him a smoothie right away. A green one.

first smoothie

The best part was that Little Guy loved it. In fact, he insisted on drinking the rest of ours.

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Life with the Vitamix has been pretty fab. Especially the clean up. Not even kidding. It’s so easy! You may remember me complaining about the torture of having to scrub out the Cuisinart crevices, which made me less likely to use it. The awesome thing about the Vitamix is that it cleans itself (sort of). You add warm water and a dash of soap, give it a crazy whirl, and bam, done. (Unless you make something very sticky or oily, but still, you get a head start with the self cleaning.)

Not a big deal to clean. Srsly.

Not a big deal to clean. Srsly.

What we’ve learned so far: As a Vitamix novice, it’s best to follow a recipe. At least until you get the hang of it. Now I’m able to play more, but in the beginning, every time we (as in my husband, a notorious rule breaker) tried to wing it, disaster ensued. It was too watery, too thick, weird texture (pear issues), or just plain gross (carrot + pear + cinnamon + ice = yuck).

Luckily, Vitamix gives you a huge binder filled with recipes, plus there’s a recipe finder on the website.

Two weeks in, we’re practically experts. Here is my debut recipe, which you absolutely do NOT need a Vitamix to make. Use your blender or Cuisinart. You may need to slightly thaw your fruit first since less powerful machines can’t pulverize frozen stuff without busting up. I know this from experience, unfortunately.

Final thought/warning: the Vitamix is crazy loud. Like, terrifyingly loud. The first time I put mine on the Smoothie cycle I literally thought it was going to launch itself into space. Luckily, it didn’t.

Tropical Blueberry Smoothie

Tropical blueberry smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 heaping cup yogurt (full fat will make a thicker shake, fyi)
  • 1 ripe banana (frozen or not)
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh pineapple

This recipe is kid approved. And super healthy. Bunky drank hers down in seconds. She was unfazed by the fact that there is NO added sugar. Not even a drop of honey. And that’s a pretty big deal considering she has a serious sweet tooth.

*If you have a high powered blender, you may need to add ice if most of your fruit is room temperature. Nothing less exciting than a lukewarm smoothie. But that could just be me.

If using a Vitamix, add liquids first, then soft fruit, and frozen stuff last. I put mine on Smoothie cycle. If you need to tweak it, feel free to add more fruit/yogurt/water/ice as needed and hit the cycle again.

Bird's eye view.

Then drink it up quick before your kid tries to steal the rest of yours.

bunky pink smoothie

Do you have any favorite Vitamix/blender smoothie recipes? If so, please share! I’m seriously addicted. Next up: homemade chocolate almond butter, YUM.

Blueberry Granola Balls and a Cautionary Tale

blueberry granola balls

I try to support local businesses. I do, really. Before Barnes and Noble took over the world, I tried to buy most of my books from small independent bookstores. (Full disclosure: I did work at Barnes and Noble after college, which was an awesome job for a book lover, but that’s when they were a SMALL chain. Yeah, I’m old.) Now that Amazon has taken over the world, I try to shop at Barnes and Noble. You get the idea.

So when I saw a very narrow little health food shop open up near my home, I got very excited. Especially when I realized they had some gluten free stuff. Although there are plenty of small grocers in a nearby neighborhood that sell (insanely overpriced) GF stuff, there is nothing this close. Now whenever I’m walking by, I stop in to see how I can support them and not go broke (golden chia seed is VERY expensive, sigh).

Mostly I’ve been stocking up on my family’s beloved Cheddar Nut Thins. Have you tried these? SO GOOD! The cheese powder is addictive like Doritos but on a rice cracker, which means you can eat the whole bag in one sitting and not feel guilty. Unless your kid asks for some in an accusatory way. Then you feel a little guilty.

Anyway, the other day I decided to bite the bullet and buy Kind brand’s Blueberry Vanilla Granola. I had been debating on making my own granola for a while now, but haven’t had the time or energy. I figured I’d use my baking time for muffins and cookies while supporting a local business. Besides, the price was reasonable and I like Kind bars. Seemed like a win win situation. As a bonus, when I checked the ingredients there was NO natural vanilla flavor, just REAL vanilla extract. No potential beaver butt for me!

However, everything went to crap when I tasted it and nearly gagged. It was like eating plastic crunchy stuff. I sniffed inside the bag. It smelled like it tasted. Horrible. I made my husband, who has the nose of a hunting dog, smell and taste it. He confirmed my fears. It was rancid. We checked the expiration which was only a month away. (For the record, I’ve had Kind granola before and it was fine, I’m thinking this bag was just old.)

[The moral of this story is not to avoid small stores, but to always check expiration dates. Close ones like this should be avoided, especially when shelling out the big bucks for GF.]

I’m usually not the bring-it-back-to-the-store kind of girl, even when I should, but this time I had to. The lady at the register was very courteous about the whole thing, which was a relief since I was all anxious and sweaty. Not only because I was holding Little Guy. I always get that way in any kind of confrontation situation, even when I’m in the right. Totally pathetic, I know. She smelled and tasted the granola. I tried to read her expression to see if she thought I was another crazy hyper sensitive customer or if she agreed. From the look on her face I think the latter. But regardless, she let me exchange it for a bag of Bob Red Mill’s GF oats. I always need more oats. Especially with recipes like this delish looking honey muffin one and this flourless oatmeal cookie hanging out my Pinterest Treats board.

All those extra oats and a desire for something that actually tasted like blueberries and vanilla inspired the latest in my ball series. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do, they might be my new fave.

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Blueberry Granola Balls (or Bars, your call)

Ingredients:

  • 1 + 1/2 cup of dates cut in half, soaked in some water to soften up (drain before adding)
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • approximately 2 teaspoons of coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 2 teaspoons of maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup gluten free oats
  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries*

* If you don’t have dried blueberries, which can be crazy expensive, feel free to sub in cranberries or skip the fruit all together and toss in a teaspoon or so of cinnamon. They’re your balls now.

Directions:

In a food processor, blend the softened dates a bit before adding the nuts. Process the nuts and dates together and then add the other ingredients up until the last two.

Lastly, add the blueberries and oats. Pulse until just combined. You don’t want to pulverize the oats. They add a nice texture.

Roll into balls and then put in the freezer for about an hour to chill. Store in freezer for best results. You can also press into a square (using parchment paper, the dough is VERY sticky) then freeze and cut into whatever shape you fancy.

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Two little hints:

If you feel like the dough is too dry, add a 1/2 teaspoon more of coconut oil or maple syrup. If the dough is too wet, add a bit more oats, a tablespoon at a time.

If you want the nuts very finely ground, like I do sometimes for Little Guy, process those FIRST and then set aside. Then process the dates into a paste. Add the finely ground nuts and then continue with the recipe.

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Yes, that is a ball tower. I went a little nuts taking photos. Ha!

I’m happy to have shared this post at the Gluten-Free Friday’s link up party hosted by Vegetarian Mamma. Click the link to find more great GF recipes!

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It’s also posted on Simply Sugar and Gluten Free’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. * Please note, that the recipes on this link-up will NOT all be gluten free, so be sure to read carefully.

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