Sunday, September 30, 2012

Individual Quick Freeze - how to save a banana

Or a few bananas. So, how to deal with a bunch of bananas that are ripening faster than you want. Get out a cookie sheet, preferably a non-stick sheet. Now, before you carve up bananas, check if you can fit the sheet into your freezer. If you got a deep-freeze, all the better, as they usually got enough space to fit the cookie sheet.

So you got a cookie sheet, now get maybe three bananas you want to freeze. Peel a banana, and slice it into slice not thicker than 1/4 inch. Place the slices on the cookie sheet so they are not overlapping. That's the "individual" in "individual quick freeze". Continue with as many bananas as you can fit on the sheet. Pop that sheet into the freezer overnight, and then you should be able to pop the bananas off with a plastic spatula.

By freezing the banana pieces individually, you avoid creating a giant frozen clump of bananas. You can of course do the same thing with whatever fruit you got to freeze.

I get the sneaking suspicion I wrote about IQF with bananas before, but this time I got a picture of a sheet of bananas.

Okay, I'm now 80% sure I did write about this before, so I'll give you a bit more. Now that you have a bunch of frozen banana pieces, now what? Here is something I've found about making smoothies: If you want a really thick smoothie, use frozen fruit pieces instead of ice. Bananas, due to their natural consistency, make extraordinarily thick smoothies. If you do up a smoothie using, say, frozen strawberry and frozen banana pieces, it's going to come out like ice cream, and may require a bit of liquid just to blend at all. Super thick. I've found that if you use protein powder with frozen banana pieces, you also get a super-thick result.

Ah, now for another bonus tip on using frozen fruit pieces in blending: If you want a smooth, as in no-lumps, smoothie, blend longer. If you do want some fruit chunks, then the normal blend cycle will do fine. So, let's say you got a blender recipe that calls for one cycle on the "Smoothie" setting. If you use a lot of frozen fruit pieces, you might want to toss on an additional 15 seconds on the "Pulse" setting manually. Or maybe even another hit on that "Smoothie" cycle.

So there you go; what amounts to a re-run article, but with a couple of add-ons.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The secret to intense coconut flavor

This stuff, Chao Thai brand coconut cream powder , is truly the secret to adding intense coconut flavor to your smoothie concoctions. You can find it at Amazon.com by using the links here (in fact, please do use the links, I get a small percent of sales), or if you have an Asian grocery in your neighborhood, they might have it there as well.

Anyhow, the intended use for this product is to reconstitute it back into coconut cream, sort of a coconut version of dry milk powder. Forget that, though! Instead, toss in a spoonful of the powder into your smoothie before blending with your Blendtec Total Blender Classic (of course), and you will be in coconut heaven. Instant Pina Colada flavor. Well, you'd want pineapple for that, too, but you get the idea.

One interesting thing about the package itself is that on the back, not only do they list the ingredients, they list the percentages of which those ingredients make up the total product. I wish other product labels were like this. So, the package is listed as being two servings. For our purposes, it's really more like four or even six, depending on how much you put into your smoothie. But, the ingredients break down to 85% coconut cream, 11.8% glucose syrup (probably the Thai equivalent to high fructose corn syrup), and then the small stuff. So it's pretty much coconut powder. I really like this stuff, my wife loves it, and I think you'll find yourself keeping a few bags of this around the kitchen.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Flax as thickener

This morning, I decided to mix up a typical banana smoothie for breakfast. I added in about a quarter cup of Premium Gold cold milled flaxseed. The shake ended up incredibly thick, but in a different way. Most thick smoothies I've made are thick because they are on the verge of freezing into ice. Think sherbert. Well, the thick imparted by the flaxseed is more like thick pancake batter, or perhaps thick syrup.

The thickness really wasn't appealing to me, but it does have me thinking it might work out really well as a thickener in sauces. I made a spaghetti sauce last night by blending two tomatoes, but it was too thin. In a pinch I added in some cornstarch, but that's just cheating. I'll have to try spaghetti sauce again with the flaxseed, as I'm sure it might impart a much better thickness than cornstarch does. Well, of course, I could actually wait and let the sauce simmer all day like an old Italian grandma, but I ain't that patient. Blend it, cook it, done.

But hey, if you want the recipe to my overly thick smoothie, here you go:

Overly Thick Smoothie

Ingredients

Directions

  • Using your handy Blendtech Total Blender Classic, add ingredients in the order listed and blend for one cycle on the "Smoothie" setting. I also pulse the mix for about 10 additional seconds to finish off any lumps of frozen strawberry.

Yield


  • Two large servings of an overly thick smoothie.
So that's the recipe. I think you'll agree it's a tad too thick, and in a not-smoothie way. But, the potential for using flax for other thickening purposes is great, and I'm going to have to try out some soups or sauces just to see.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

So this is the blender we own

This blender as shown here to the left is the very model we own. Ours is black, but you can also get them in a very nice red, or even silver. The Blendtec Total Blender. Oh yeah.

Unlike the wimpy blenders you'll find at a typical department store or big box store, this thing is a monster. I'm sure that if you needed to mix a small batch of cement, the Blendtec Total Blender would do the job fine. Mind you, I'm not suggesting you actually do that, of course.

So anyhow, if you go to Starbucks, you might take a gander at their blenders. They're Blendtec units, and the mixer containers are just like the ones here, except theirs got custom labeling on them. Basically the same unit.

We picked up our blenders at Costco while an in-store demo was going on, but it isn't an item they regularly stock. If you want to purchase a Blendtec blender, click the blender picture and shop away.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The worst blender drink yet

This is about the worst thing I've spun up yet. So why am I writing about it? I figure you might want to know about things to avoid. And this sure is something to avoid.
Toxic Waste

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 nectarine, diced
  • half a package instant sugar-free pudding, butterscotch flavor
  • 1 cup ice
  • Splash of sugar-free coconut syrup

Directions, with additional ingredients

  • Spin for one cycle on "Smoothie" setting
  • Realize it isn't going to spin without some more liquid, so shut it down a few seconds into the cycle.
  • Add a splash of milk
  • Restart the "Smoothie" cycle.
  • Notice how the texture just looks odd, and the color isn't too appealing.
  • Try a taste. Way too sweet, and it's just not right.
  • Decide, unwisely, to add in a big handful of shredded cabbage, and run it all for another cycle
  • Taste again, and realize it is just beyond rescue.
So now the result is a blob of garbage-smelling overly sweet spew. Normally, cabbage is a fine additive to a smoothie, without any specific overpowering cabbage flavor. Well, that was then, this is now. The cabbage has imparted this bad-to-start-with blend a distinct rotting matter smell. This drink was bad, bad, bad.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Apple Pie Smoothie

Image courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Apple_pie.jpg - photo by Dan Parsons
After a hard day's work doing some interior remodeling and a humble meal of diced tofu, I wanted some applie pie for dessert. But hey, I didn't want to go out and find apple pie. So, hey, I was tired. I wasn't going to bother driving to McDonalds to get one of those apple pies there.

Blender to the rescue! I decided to try creating an apple pie smoothie, and it turned out to be quite easy to do.

Ingredients


  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 apples, diced. You pick whatever apple you like.
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Splash of sugar-free vanilla syrup
  • Ice, maybe a half-cup or so. Up to you.

Directions

  • Add ingredients in the order listed
  • Blend for one cycle on the "Smoothie" setting

Yield

  • Well, I got one full 16-ounce cup, and another cup of maybe 14 ounces. I guess the size of apples makes a difference.
The result was a great smoothie with classic apple pie taste. It was just what I wanted. Even my loving wife thought it was a great apple pie flavor.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The best smoothie I've concocted yet

This is a quick note for all, so no photo. Just follow along.

Ingredients



  • Handful of black grapes
  • Handful of fresh strawberries
  • Handful frozen banana pieces
  • Handful frozen blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon dry milk powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar-free Almond Roca syrup
  • 1/2 cup ice

Directions

  • Add ingredients into your handy Blendtec blender in the order listed
  • Fire it up for one cycle on the "Smoothie" setting

Yield

  • Hm. I filled up a 16-ounce cup, and had about 6 ounces left over. I suppose you could knock the whole thing down as one big delicious serving.
Now about this recipe; you might notice there is no cabbage or spinach in here, no "fool the kids" ingredients. The frozen banana pieces, you can make those yourself by dicing up a banana and spreading it out on a baking dish which you then place in the freezer. Fresh strawberries, well, you can use frozen ones, too.


Ah, but the taste! This is my favorite smoothie yet, with a deep purple color, deliciously intense berry-yet-banana flavor, and the perfect texture for slurping through a straw. If you got a clear 16 oz. cup like the nice ones to the right, this is the perfect drink to pour into it. Perfect.