How to Make Your Own Smoothies: A Basic Formula and Some Healthy Recipes

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It’s been an incredibly stressful year for me so far, mostly because my migraine seems to have become chronic. Not only is the pain debilitating, but its brain-fog wreaks havoc with my professional life, making it virtually impossible to write, which causes me even more depression and anxiety than the migraine itself does. My migraine is accompanied by nausea, and if you don’t eat regularly when you have migraine, you could trigger more attacks. To stay hydrated and eat in a healthy way with migraine, I’ve been depending more on smoothies. I’ve made my own smoothies for years, but to avoid boredom, I keep inventing new variations. I start with a basic formula for smoothies, adding different fruits or other ingredients every time I make one. It’s easy to make your own smoothies once you have the basic formula, and I encourage you to experiment to see which flavors you like best. I’m still experimenting with savory smoothies, but I’ve mastered some of the sweeter ones, and have been having them daily. Here’s how to make them yourself.

Basic Smoothie Recipe
1 C cold liquid
¼-½ C low-fat plain or vanilla yogurt
1-2 C frozen fruit, divided into at least two types: one tart, one sweeter

For the liquids, you can use milk, soy milk, almond milk, water, iced green or white tea, iced rooibos tea, iced black tea, etc. The milks add some texture, but I don’t detect much of a flavor change. I most often use water or (low-caffeine) iced tea, if only because I like the fruit flavor to shine and because I don’t drink milk. I use organic green, white, or rooibos iced tea if it’s later in the day, so that I won’t be kept awake by the caffeine. If you want to use kefir for the liquid, reduce the yogurt to ¼ cup or the smoothie will be too sour.

Although all of these smoothie recipes also work with fresh fruit and are very good, they won’t be thick with fresh fruit, even if it’s cold. A few ice cubes will thicken a fresh-fruit drink slightly: too many will water the flavor down. That’s why I prefer frozen fruit to ice cubes. Be sure to use fruit you have sliced/diced and frozen yourself, or purchase frozen fruit that has no added sugar or sulfites.

I always add frozen bananas to my smoothies, not only for their high magnesium content, but because they add a fine lower note to any other frozen fruits, keeping the smoothie from becoming too sweet. The more frozen fruit you add, the more like ice cream the smoothie will be. I’ve been known to make them so thick, they’re more like frozen yogurt or soft-serve ice cream and have to be eaten with a spoon.

Optional Ingredients,
for Migraine

The following optional ingredients are those I’ve learned to add for migraine. The crystalized ginger reduces nausea and vomiting, although I admit that I’m very fond of ginger, especially the sweet-hot taste of the crystallized version. All the other optional ingredients contain high magnesium, which ostensibly helps prevent migraine. Though any magnesium deficit would be difficult to address by diet alone, i.e., without supplements, there’s no harm in your eating these ingredients whether or not you have migraine since high-magnesium foods also help with other health issues, such as insomnia or leg cramps.

Optional Ingredients

½ C frozen banana
½ C uncooked, old-fashioned oatmeal
½ fresh, unfrozen avocado (adds smoothness and gives a silky texture: no noticeable taste)
3-5 large slices crystalized ginger (or 2 large slices fresh ginger or ⅛ t ground organic ginger)

If you choose to add the uncooked, old-fashioned oatmeal to any smoothie, reduce the fruit by ½ cup. You can always add a bit more fruit in after you’ve blended it the first time.

To Make the Smoothie

Put your choice of liquid and yogurt into blender. If you are using the avocado, oatmeal, or ginger, it works best to add these now. Blend until smooth.

Add frozen fruit. Blend again, using “pulsing” smoothie feature or “pulsing” manually, turning blender off every 15-30 seconds to stir the ingredients with a silicone spatula to prevent frozen fruit from jamming the blades. Blend until smooth. If too thick, add a bit more liquid. If too thin, add a bit more frozen fruit.

Makes approximately 3 C smoothie, which is one very large serving, with a few sips left over; or 2 medium servings, or 3 small.

You should drink the smoothie immediately after blending. If you cannot drink the entire thing and store it in the refrigerator, the drink will thin and separate: you may have to add more frozen bananas and blend again before drinking. All of these smoothies freeze well (in plastic containers) overnight, can be thawed for an hour or two in the refrigerator, and eaten the next day.

Spiced Mango Smoothie

Smoothie Recipes

Spiced Mango Smoothie
1 C water, iced tea, or soy milk
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1 ½ C frozen, diced mango
½ C frozen, sliced bananas
5-7 large slices crystalized ginger )or 2-3 large slices fresh ginger or ⅛-¼ t ground organic ginger
½ t (Vietnamese) cinnamon
⅛ t organic, ground, ancho chile powder

Mango-Peach Smoothie
1 C water, iced tea, or soy milk
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1 C frozen, diced mango
1 C frozen, sliced peaches
5-7 slices crystallized ginger or 2 large slices fresh ginger or ⅛ t ground organic ginger)

Ginger-Peach Smoothie

Ginger-Peach Smoothie
1 C water, iced tea, or soy milk
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1 ½ C frozen, sliced peaches
½ C frozen, sliced bananas
7-10 slices crystallized ginger (or 3 large slices fresh ginger or ¼ t ground organic ginger)

Orange-Mango Smoothie
1 C orange juice
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1 ½ C frozen, diced mango
½ C frozen, sliced bananas
5-7 large slices crystallized ginger (or 2-3 large slices fresh ginger or ⅛-¼ t ground organic ginger)

Orange-Peach Smoothie
1 C orange juice
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1 ½ C frozen sliced peaches
½ C frozen sliced bananas

Pineapple-Orange Smoothie
1 C orange juice
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1 ½ C frozen sliced pineapple
½ C frozen sliced bananas

Tropical Island Smoothie
1 C orange juice
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
¾ C frozen, diced mango
¾ C frozen, diced pineapple
½ C frozen, sliced bananas

Blueberry Smoothie

Blueberry Smoothie
1 C water, iced tea, or soy milk
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1 ½ C frozen blueberries
½ C frozen banana slices

Pink Blueberry Smoothie
1 C water, iced tea, or soy milk
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1 C frozen blueberries
1 C frozen strawberries or raspberries, or ½ C each strawberries and raspberries

Black-and-Blue Berry Smoothie
1 C water, iced tea, or soy milk
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
¾ C frozen blueberries
¾ C frozen blackberries
½ C frozen banana slices

Peach-Lime Smoothie
1 C limeade
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
½ fresh avocado
1 ½ C frozen sliced peaches
½ C frozen sliced bananas

Peach-Lemonade Smoothie
1 C lemonade
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1 ½ C frozen sliced peaches
½ C frozen sliced bananas

Mango-Lemonade Smoothie
1 C lemonade
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1 ½ C frozen, diced mango
½ C frozen sliced bananas

Lemonade Iced Tea Smoothie
½ C lemonade
½ C iced tea
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1 C frozen, sliced bananas

Lemon-Lime Smoothie
½ C limeade
½ C lemonade
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1 ½ C frozen, sliced bananas

Peanut Butter Smoothie

Peanut Butter Smoothie
1 C water, iced tea, or soy milk
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
½ C frozen, sliced bananas
1 C smooth peanut butter

Coffee Smoothie
1 C cold, unsweetened coffee
¼ C milk, soy milk, or almond milk
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
½ fresh avocado (optional, but provides silky texture)
2 C frozen, sliced bananas
1 t espresso powder

Mocha Coffee Smoothie
1 C cold, unsweetened coffee
¼ C milk, soy milk, or almond milk
½ C low-fat, low sugar, plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
½ fresh avocado (optional, but provides silky texture)
2 C frozen, sliced bananas
1 T malted milk powder, dissolved in hot water before adding to liquids
1 t espresso powder
1 t cocoa

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Homemade Maple Granola

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For the past 13 months, my migraine attacks have been so frequent and so long-lasting, that I am beginning to fear they have become chronic. When this seemingly never-ending round began in April 2017, I thought it was due to stress from my car’s dying on the road and being irreparable. Though I got another car within 10 days, the migraine didn’t stop. “Reduce your stress,” said my doctor at every single now-monthly visit, until I was virtually living like a hermit with no apparent reduction in migraine pain or frequency. Several months ago, I began going through every single item in my kitchen, vowing to eliminate any food additives or artificial sweeteners that might be lurking in my meals. I went through my cookbooks and vowed to make everything from scratch. Everything. From scratch. So I would know every single ingredient that was going into my body. Unfortunately, every time I thought I’d found the offending trigger, and had a half-day’s respite, the migraine would return with furious anger.

In the meantime, however, I found lots of ways to enjoy food prepared as simply as possible, with very few sauces or condiments (unless I make them myself). One of my most exciting discoveries was that I could make my own granola. I love it over yogurt, as muesli (I eat mine with cold water, a hold-over from my years as a vegetarian and/or vegan back in the days when such conveniences as soy-milk were unheard of), or straight from my hand into my mouth. Most of the commercial brands are high-fat or, if low-fat, covered with honey. (I’m allergic to bees, and the last time I had some honey in baked goods, I ended up in the ER.)

I’m a big fan of Deb Perelman, of Smitten Kitchen fame, and earlier this year, I treated myself to both her cookbooks. It was in her 2012 The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook that I found her recipe for Big Cluster Maple Granola (pp. 26-27), which you can also find online at Serious Eats.

Deb’s version is very fine, although the egg whites she uses for “clustering” made me a big nervous. I used her recipe as is the first time, and then, when it didn’t cluster despite the addition of the egg whites, I went off on my own and tinkered away, burning quite a few batches in the process.

I’ve finally mastered my own low-fat, vegan granola, and I cannot keep it in the house. And that was before I finally pronounced the recipe an actual success, wrote it down on the pages of Deb’s cookbook, and offered my guy a taste. I may have to start making more than one batch a week of this very fine granola.


Ingredients *
4 C old-fashioned rolled oats, uncooked (I use a generic brand)
1 C pumpkin seeds (kernels, shelled, no salt)
1 C flax seeds (whole)
⅔ – 1 C maple syrup (I started with the ⅔,  and finally settled on 1 C because of the extra ingredients
2 T olive oil (extra virgin, and be sure to taste it first: you want a slightly sweet taste, not a bitter one)
1 t Vietnamese cinnamon, ground (any kind of cinnamon will do, but Vietnamese has the best taste)
½ t sea salt (coarse or fine: both work)

Dried Fruit
½ C each dried blueberries, dried cherries, dried cranberries (or any mixture you wish)

Pre-heat oven to 300º F.

Combine all ingredients except the dried fruit in a large bowl and stir well until all the dry ingredients seem evenly coated with the liquid ingredients. Spread it on a large cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. (This will work fine without parchment paper, but if you don’t have any parchment baking paper, do not use waxed paper instead: it will smoke — if it doesn’t catch fire — and will taint the granola.)


Bake for 20 minutes. **

Using a large spatula, carefully turn over the granola in sections: it browns on the underside and on the very edges. Rotate the pan to ensure even toasting.

Bake 15-20 minutes more.

If it looks like it needs a bit more browning, rotate the pan, turn the oven off, and “bake” for 5-7 more minutes, checking the granola every minute. It goes from it could be just a little browner to burnt, blackened, and ruined faster than you can imagine, so keep an eye on it.

When it looks light to medium brown, remove from oven. Set aside while you pour dried fruit into a heat-proof bowl. Mix the fruit slightly.

You do not have to wait for the granola to cool completely before mixing it with the dried fruit. In fact, I prefer mixing the warm-to-hot granola in with the dried fruit and letting the two parts mingle their flavors. You do what you prefer.

Lifting the ends of the parchment paper by both sides, slowly lift all the granola off the cookie sheet and pour it directly into the bowl of dried fruit. If you’re not using parchment sheet, you may have to spoon the granola into the bowl: the small seeds and toasty oatmeal scatter easily.

With a large mixing spoon, carefully stir until the dried fruit seems evenly distributed among the granola.

Serving Suggestions
Eat straight from the bowl (I mean, from the storage jar), serve mixed with yogurt, sprinkled over ice cream, or with milk (soy milk, almond milk, cold water, juice) as muesli for breakfast.

Storage
Store in an air-tight storage jar. Deb Perelman says hers lasts up to 2 weeks on the counter in the air-tight jars, but I’ve never had any granola left after a week.

And if you have any questions or suggestions, please do let me know.

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* I use Gerbs seeds and dried fruit because, although the dried fruit has a bit of sugar, it’s not very sweet, and all their products are non-GMO, vegan, and kosher. I get everything else at the grocery, and I use generic when I can find it.


** I’m high-altitude, about 8500 feet in the Rockies, so you may have to adjust your own baking time. Perelman’s original recommendation is 45-55 minutes at 300º F, turning/rotating etc. about half-way through.

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