Thursday, 23 April 2015

Do You Smoothie?

Imagine if you could satisfy your hunger and be nourished by gulping down a glass of chilled liquids instead of eating what could potentially be a heavy, nutritionally dubious meal.  What if breakfast, lunch and dinner times didn't have to mean a hassle in the kitchen or that unpleasant feeling of bloating after eating? Suppose all you needed were a few ingredients and a functional blender. Then the world of flavor is all yours. To create glass after glass, jug upon jug of thick, chilled, brightly colored, filling smoothies. The oppressive heat of our summers makes these beverages a welcome relief from cooking.

New to the smoothie world? Smoothies are essentially blended beverage made with fruit/vegetables, sweeteners such as honey or agave, dairy such as milk or flavoured yogurt, and add-ins such as protein powders. Smoothies are usually made in a blender and contain the whole fruit or vegetable (as opposed to just the juice). Which basically means that you can blitz up 2-3 of your favorite fruits in flavor combinations that appeal to your personal tastes. If you’re just starting out in the world of smoothies, then here’s a familiar flavor: mango-yogurt smoothie. This drink combines the best of summer with the comfort of a chilled beverage. Blitz a whole, chopped banana with chunks of a ripe mango, milk and crushed ice. Serve with a mint leaf and a sprinkle of cardamom powder. For a healthier, breakfast smoothie, combine the goodness of spinach & pears with lemon juice, flax seeds, honey and mint. Blitz these ingredients with some water or coconut milk and drink it chilled. The flax seeds add bulk and fibre making the beverage more filling. For a high powered breakfast drink, whip frozen berries with handful of kale leaves, avocado, water and honey. 

Once you get the basic hang of making smoothies, then expand your horizons to include nut butters, spices or dairy like soy milk. Another great way to amp up the protein quotient of your smoothies is by adding in toasted oats. To make sure they integrate well into the drink, just run them through the blender before adding any other ingredients. It will also make for a thicker smoothie with the faintest, nutty hint.

In case you get the sense that a smoothie is exclusively a healthy, green affair then you are sorely mistaken. Make a dessert smoothie with naturally sweet ingredients like dates. Or whip up a peanut butter-jelly smoothie or try making a pina-colada styled smoothie with pineapple cubes and frozen coconut water. If it needs thickening, add some coconut milk. Flavor it with a squeeze of lemon juice and honey. You can float a pretty, colorful umbrella in it for that holiday feel!

The beauty of smoothies is in their versatility, their colours, flavours and that a glass of a chilled smoothie is usually just the perfect thing in an exhausting summer. So go on and get blending!

Image Credit: Google

Monday, 13 April 2015

Beat the heat with an Icy Indulgence

It’s hot, it’s sultry, you’re perpetually dehydrated, your body has no energy and is suffering whiplash from the artificial cooling of an office AC and the airless, furnace outside. The best remedy to this of course is lots and lots of water to cool the body down. But there’s only so much water one can drink, only so much cucumber, mint, watermelon one can eat before the taste buds rebel and insist on a scoop of deliciously icy, creamy and sweet ice cream. Ever seen an infant have his first lick of ice cream? His eyes widens at the freezing cold, then slowly a smile forms at the sweet flavors then he looks for his next lick! This visceral response doesn't change even as we grow into adulthood and it’s amazing how this combination of milk, cream, sugar and fruit or chocolate or spices can reduce mature adults into excited kids. This summer, make a promise to yourself; that you would embrace the inner kid once in a while and indulge in your favorite flavors.

If you make such a promise just before entering our stores, you will find the meaning of instant gratification! The reach-in freezers in the cold aisles have been stocked to the brim with premium, gourmet ice creams in a wide range of flavors and brands. Pick up the Cookies & Crunch ice cream bar from Haagen Dazs and satiate the cravings immediately. Then move onto the other flavors.  Haagen-Dazs, Baskin Robbins, London Dairy and Hokey-Pokey all carry the classic variants of vanilla, chocolate, dry fruit, berries and other fruit. 

But if you like making your own ice cream at home, here’s a super-simple, easy DIY recipe using only one ingredient. Bananas. Simply chop them equally, freeze them and then run them through a food processor until thick, aerated and creamy. Return it back to the freezer for a few hours and magically, you have vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free, sugar-free and importantly, tasty ice cream! If making ice cream from scratch is not an option, then stock up while at the store.

Having basic ice cream flavors at home opens up the options of playing around with ingredients and flavors for delectable sundaes. Everyone knows that the joy of an ice cream is accentuated by the sauces, nuts, fruits, wafer sticks; the colors and textures of which appeal to all children, young and grown-up. But moving beyond these ‘childish’ sundaes, ice creams also make for some truly elegant dessert options. For a gourmet touch, serve up ginger ice cream alongside pears poached in red wine, or add oomph to a scoop of chocolate by serving it with a shot of hot espresso in the style of an affogato. Or serve up dark coffee flavored ice cream with almond biscotti for an interesting twist on another Italian tradition. Love these ideas so far? Dump a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream into a tall beer glass and top it with beer for an adult ice cream float. Or maybe pair a mango ice cream with slices of cardamom cake for an Indian twist. Another interesting pairing is to drizzle some fresh mint sauce over a dark, bittersweet chocolate ice cream. The contrast in flavors really heightens the experience.

As far as ice cream is concerned, your palate is the playground where you can go crazy and experiment with flavors, textures and ingredients. And Nature’s Basket understands this so we stock up on all the gourmet ingredients you will need to make an icy masterpiece.

Image Credit: Google