For those of us on the East Coast, this winter was certainly one for the books and who among us isn’t celebrating the absence of snow, ice and biting temperatures that had us all huddled under the covers for months as our heating bills soared to all-time highs? Yet somehow we made it to May, with tulips and daffodils heralding the spectacular weather and the promise of summer. Can you blame anyone whose mind starts to turn to the incomparable taste of freshly-picked seasonal produce and the delicious frozen treats that magically transport us back in time and make us all feel five years old again?
Sure you can buy endless varieties of ice cream, frozen novelties, malteds, milkshakes, Slurpees and frosted iced coffee, but there is something to be said for making all of these items in the comfort of your own home. While price can sometimes be a factor (I don’t think anyone can beat the price on supermarket ice cream when they run a really good sale), making your own offers you the ability to use higher quality ingredients and customize your treats to your own taste and nutrition specifications. And if you have kids at home, you know that making things in your own kitchen can be a fun activity that will really get the little ones (and the big ones) excited.
Craving a smoothie? You could walk into your local cafe and shell out six dollars for a frozen something or other with a name designed to make you drool, or you can pull out your blender and make one at home for a fraction of the price in just minutes. The best part of making your iced beverage? The sky is the limit and you can make a ridiculously decadent one that will take you an hour on the treadmill to walk off, or you can load your blender up with fruit (or even greens) and craft a nutrient-rich, low-calorie beverage that will taste amazing and won’t wreck your diet.
No matter what kind of smoothie you are making, you are going to need to start off with a liquid – be it water, milk or a milk alternative, fruit juice or even yogurt – poured into the blender as your first ingredient to facilitate the blending process. While many smoothie recipes call for ice cubes, freezing small chunks of chopped up fruits (or vegetables if you want to drink your veggies) in advance makes for a thicker and more flavorful smoothie. Stock up on frozen fruit when it goes on sale and get into the habit of dicing surplus fruit before it goes bad and stashing it in your freezer for inclusion in future smoothies. It goes without saying that while smoothies can be healthy choices, there are times when you want to throw caution to the wind and indulge in something that is short on nutritional value but long on the yum factor, so feel free to plop a few scoops of your favorite ice cream into the blender with your liquid of choice for a really fabulous shake. Whatever your preference, be sure that any frozen items going into your blender are cut into small pieces or you might find yourself with either a burned out motor or a broken blender cup.
You could just hit the blend button for a basic shake or you can add some more punch to your smoothie with some extra ingredients. Looking to go healthy? Throw in a handful of sunflower seeds, a scoop of protein powder, a healthy dollop of peanut butter, or even a handful of whole oats to the blender jar for a smoothie that will keep you full for longer. Want to add some fun to your frosty treat? Try cookies, chocolate bits, cereal, Marshmallow Fluff, Nutella, malt powder or just about anything else, and, for an adults-only treat, feel free to throw in a splash of flavored liqueur as well. If you find yourself lacking in inspiration, try googling recipes or check out the menus from your favorite eateries and see if you can duplicate their signature drinks. Most importantly? Invest in smoothie straws – available in your local supermarket – at about twice the width of regular straws, they are a must when it comes to enjoying your homemade treats.