Fall Greens Smoothie

My friend and bandmate Julie hosts a so-called liquid breakfast every Thanksgiving morning. Ostensibly, this is a way to usher in the coming feast with a light snack and a tipple with friends, but it inevitably turns to a bacon- and quiche-sodden booze-fest.

(Not that I mind.)

But Jay and I have been enjoying our own liquid breakfasts (unfortunately devoid of booze, quiche, and bacon) for the past month, and I thought it was high time I shared it here, particularly with the coming onslaught of excess that the end of the year unfailingly brings.

I like having a secret weapon up my sleeve around the holidays – something clean-tasting and fresh to counteract the copious amounts of booze and sweets – and this smoothie is what I’ve been looking forward to every morning when I wake up.

We’re not the only ones who dig cashew-almond milk

My sister’s to blame for getting me hooked on the green drink. She whips up a pitcher every morning full of spinach, kale, frozen fruit, apple juice, and a green protein powder. I can’t explain what it is that I find so thoroughly addictive about these, but once I tried a sip, there was no going back. You could say I drank the green Kool Aid.

To support my habit, I started making my own. I like my smoothies a little creamy, so I decided to use a nut milk base. Since shelf stable nut milks tend to have a chalky consistency and be filled with gums and stabilizers, I began making my own. A sturdy blender (which we recently purchased and are loving) and a nylon nut milk bag make this a snap. I found that a combination of almonds and cashews make the creamiest milk with the minimum amount of nut pulp left over, since the cashews break down thoroughly. And don’t jettison the nut pulp – you can use it to make delicious crackers and brownies, among other things.

To the nut milk base, I add fresh kale. (I prefer kale to spinach, which feels funny on my teeth.) You can throw the whole thing in, stems and all, but I find the smoothie to have a better texture and flavor if you strip the leaves off and discard the stems. If raw kale doesn’t agree with you (and there is increasing evidence that lightly cooking your kale is a good thing), you can place the kale in a strainer, pour a few cups of boiling water over it, then rinse it with cool water and squeeze the kale dry. This method officially wins this the title of “most labor-intensive smoothie, ever,” but it also helps to break down the kale a bit so your body does less of the work, and it keeps the kale a vibrant green longer.

As for the fruit, my favorite combination is equal parts frozen pears and red crimson grapes. These keep the smoothie looking bright green, while adding sweetness and a bit of tang from the grapes. Grapes are having a late season here in California, and I’ve been buying up huge bunches, stripping them from their stems, and freezing them in quart-sized yogurt containers for weeks of smoothies. I’m not sure what I’ll do when the grapes finally disappear from our co-op…which is why I have about 20 pounds in the freezer at the moment.

I also buy Bartlett pears, let them ripen, then cut them up and freeze them on trays. They’ve been juicy, sweet, and very flavorful, and I’m hoping they stay that way through the winter.

The banana here is a delicate thing. Too much, and the flavor overwhelms. One small banana per two servings adds just the right amount of sweetness and body.

So there is my overly-informative explanation for why I wake up every morning anticipating a glass of cool, creamy, green liquid. Though there’s no need to limit yourself to liquid breakfasts; this works well as an afternoon snack, too.

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Liquid Breakfasts:

Mint and Celery Soda
Lemon Verbena and Red Berry Shakes
Vanilla Maple Almond Milk, and Huckleberry Smoothies

One year ago:

Flakiest, All-Butter Pie Dough
Cranberry Apple Crumble Pie
Apple of your Rye Cocktail

Two years ago:

Two-Persimmon Tea Cake

Three years ago:

Nibby Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies and
Cranberry Pear Upside-Down Gingerbread

Four years ago:

Horchata Ice Creamand

Fall Greens Smoothie

A recipe with as few ingredients as this one is all about quality. I make this smoothie with ripe grapes and pears that I process and freeze myself, which allows me to use local, peak-of-season produce that I know will be sweet and flavorful. I like to make my own nut milk as it is heads and tails above the shelf-stable stuff. (Update: I tried this with shelf-stable coconut milk, and I did not like the result.) I like just enough banana to make it sweet and creamy, but not take over (1 small one per two servings). If raw kale isn’t your thing, you can wilt it easily by placing it in a strainer and slowly pouring 3 cups of boiling water over it. Rinse it with cool water and squeeze it dry.

Jay and I usually share the quantity below, but I’m always happy to get the whole thing to myself on the rare occasions that he’s away during breakfast time.

Makes 1 quart; 1 huge or 2 moderate servings

2 cups Cashew Almond Milk (below)
2 cups packed kale leaves
1 cup frozen pear chunks
1 cup frozen table grapes
1 small banana (4 ounces in the peel)

Combine all ingredients in a blender in the order listed. Blend until very smooth, around 3 minutes, beginning on low and slowly increasing the speed to high. Serve immediately.

Cashew Almond Milk

1 cup whole “raw” cashews
1 cup whole raw almonds
water, as needed (preferably filtered)

Combine the cashews and almonds in a 1-quart jar and fill the jar with water. Let soak 8-24 hours. Drain the nuts and rinse them well, then add them to the blender with 4 cups of water. Blend on high until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Strain the mixture through a nut milk bag and into a large bowl, squeezing the dickens out of the pulp to extract as much liquid as possible. (Reserve the nut pulp for making brownies!) Add the remaining 6 cups of water to the nut milk (or add less water for a richer nut milk). The nut milk will keep, refrigerated, for up to 4 or 5 days.

19 thoughts on “Fall Greens Smoothie”

  1. Grapes with kale are my favorite too – I replace the nut milk with banana and just use water. When grapes are not available try pineapple…just wait for it to get ripe first or it will be too acidic. If you wait for a week or so til it's fragrant it will be so much more delicious and flavorful!

  2. Oh lovely Alanna! I bet that nut milk tastes amazing even on its own! I love the thought of the almond and cashew combo! The smoothie looks too good! Thank you for sharing it!

    1. Thanks for the sweet comment, Monet! It is hard to keep from swigging the almond cashew milk all on its own. And yesterday I made hot chocolate with it – that was also super yummy. :)

  3. Such lovely food-prep shots and the lighting is gorgeous! I could pop frozen grapes into my mouth all day. I could definitely use some cleansing smoothies later on in the holiday season… keeping this one on my list. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, Alanna!

  4. Wonderful post, Alanna. Both your pics and the smoothie looks absolutely delicious. Will have to give this super-healthy treat a try. I usually add some ground almonds or flax seed to my smoothies for extra oomph! What a way to kick start your day.

  5. I'm still searching for a green smoothie recipe I would fall in love with. Tried a few before (not to mention green juices), but with little success in the flavor department. I do love the addition of grapes here!

  6. Great recipe! I replaced the nut milk with coconut milk which worked out fine and gave it a nice sweetness. Thank you for sharing :)

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