Smoothies can be refreshing, nutritious treats in winter, too

It’s a simple, classic recipe: Throw a banana, some yogurt, a few ice cubes and a handful of berries in a blender, whir until creamy and voila: a smoothie.

Except that fresh berries are a little pricey in the winter, not to mention a little peaked.

Not to worry, that nutritious pause that refreshes you in the summer can be quite enjoyable in winter as well, without breaking the bank. It just requires a little creativity.

Robyn Lew, a registered dietitian and culinary graduate, says it’s always best to use whatever fruit is in season.

“Of course, you can always go get frozen berries,” which have the same nutritional value as fresh, she said. “But I love to sneak in whatever’s available, to throw some kale in there, some spinach, a stalk of celery. Once you puree it up with everything else, you don’t even notice.”

Lew said she recently made a “really good one” with pears, fresh ginger, a little raw oatmeal and fat-free vanilla yogurt. The oatmeal, she said, added “even more fiber and a lot of texture and a little body.”

She suggests looking around to see what’s in the market.

“Obviously, citrus right now is everywhere,” she said. “Apples, pears, squash — anything like that.”

Lew suggests caramelizing pears or apples in the oven or a saute pan and adding some ginger, cinnamon and/or nutmeg.

“Add that apple-pie flavor,” she said.

Dina Mitchell, area developer for Tropical Smoothie, said fruits that are available year-round, such as oranges and bananas, are naturals in smoothies. Bananas, she continued, are “a good staple. And throwing in whatever fruit.

“Sometimes even avocados; that’s a great thing to add to a smoothie that people don’t necessarily think about. It doesn’t really change the flavor, it makes it creamier. It’s an alternative to adding yogurt and really nutritious.”

If you are buying frozen fruit, Mitchell said, try to buy the higher-priced brands, which tend to have more flavor.

“Get good-quality frozen fruit and thaw it out,” she said. “You’re going to add a lot of flavor, and have a smoothie whenever you want it. The importance is thawing it out.”

Mitchell said smoothies tend to be more popular in the warmer months. But, “for the person who likes to be health-conscious year-round, it’s still on their mind. It’s still their ritual. For me, having a smoothie every morning helps me to not have something really fattening for lunch.

“For somebody who has a Coke, that’s still cold. Healthy should be year-round.”

ORANGE-BANANA SMOOTHIE

1 cup orange juice

1 cup vanilla low-fat yogurt

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Dash of salt

1 ripe banana, sliced

Place all ingredients in a blender; process until smooth.

Serves 2.

— Recipe from Cooking Light

BERRY CHOCOLATE SMOOTHIE

2 cups cranberry juice cocktail, chilled

1 cup strawberry yogurt

2½ cups frozen whole strawberries

2 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)

¼ cup mini-chocolate chips

Put all ingredients, except chocolate chips, in a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth. Add chocolate chips and pulse until chopped. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

— Recipe from Ocean Spray

BREAKFAST PEAR SMOOTHIE

1 pear, cored and chopped

1 large orange, peeled

½ cup vanilla soy milk

1 cup ice

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until thick.

Serves 2.

— Recipe from Pear Bureau Northwest

CRANBERRY CHERRY MANGO SMOOTHIE

1 cup frozen pitted cherries

1 cup frozen cubed mango

½ cup cherry-cranberry juice drink

¼ cup Greek-style vanilla yogurt

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend at high speed until smooth (15 to 20 seconds).

Pour into glasses.

Serves 2.

— Recipe from Ocean Spray

APPLE BROWN BETTY SMOOTHIE

1 cup plain yogurt

½ green or red apple, core removed

1 small banana, peeled

1 tablespoon brown sugar

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

4-6 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour into glass and serve immediately.

Sprinkle with more cinnamon, if desired.

Serves 1.

— Recipe from Dannon Yogurt

GET-GOING MORNING SMOOTHIE

1 cup plain yogurt or vanilla low-fat yogurt

½ cup brewed coffee, chilled

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons peanut butter

1 whole banana, peeled, in chunks

Place all ingredients in a blender; process until smooth and serve immediately.

Serves 1.

— Recipe from Dannon Yogurt

KEY LIME-BANANA SMOOTHIE

1 6-ounce container 99 percent fat-free Key lime pie yogurt

1 ripe banana, sliced

½ cup milk

1 tablespoon lime juice

¼ teaspoon dry lemon lime-flavored soft drink mix (from 0.13-ounce package)

1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt

Place all ingredients except frozen yogurt in blender. Cover; blend on high speed until smooth.

Add frozen yogurt. Cover; blend until smooth.

Serves 2.

— Recipe from Yoplait

SWEET POTATO PIE SMOOTHIE

1¼ cups milk

¼ cup cooked sweet potato, cold

2/3 cup 99 percent fat-free creamy vanilla yogurt (from 2-pound container)

1 tablespoon honey

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon vanilla

Place ingredients in blender or food processor. Cover; blend on high speed about 1 minute or until smooth.

Pour into 2 glasses. Serve immediately.

Serves 2.

— Recipe from Yoplait

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@review journal.com or 702-383-0474.

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