Friday, September 9, 2011

Strawberry Smoothie Showdown

The smoothie stand in the food court of the Galleria Mall has the best strawberry smoothies. Aside from strawberries, I'm not clear on the ingredients – I suspect that frozen yogurt might be one of them – but it tastes like a milkshake with only half the guilt.

Trying to replicate the smoothie at home, I set out to test four recipes, with only one rule: keep the bad-for-you ingredients to a minimum.

Here are the results:

#1: Strawberries, Orange Juice, Ice, and Sugar

The first recipe had an advantage with its no-fuss ingredients, all of which we usually have at home. And the preparation couldn't be simpler: blend and serve.

Unfortunately, the results were disappointing and this recipe turned out to be the least liked of the four.

It was sweet, but the orange juice overpowered the strawberries. If you've ever wondered what strawberry flavored orange juice tastes like, you're not missing out on anything.

After maybe 15 minutes, the ingredients began to separate, which added to the ick factor.

#2: Strawberries, Milk, Ice, and Sugar

The second recipe called for whole milk, which I didn't have, so I made do with skim.

It also required less sugar than the first (1 teaspoon as compared to a tablespoon). And that, I think, was its downfall.

In a word, this smoothie was bland. It had a thicker consistency than the previous smoothie, but it didn't taste like anything. And its ingredients separated over a fifteen minute period (so drink up quick!).

If given the choice between this smoothie and water, I'd take the water.

#3: Strawberries, Milk, and Yogurt

The third recipe substitutes sugar and ice with yogurt. It doesn't specify a flavor, but I went with the most logical choice: strawberry.

This drink was creamier than the others but not as cold. Despite the ingredients having been refrigerated, the smoothie was served at room temperature, which detracted from its taste.

As for flavor, the yogurt-and-milk based smoothie was as bland as its predecessor, but it had promise.

I placed mine in the fridge and added a spoonful of sugar, which made it nearly perfect.

#4: Strawberries, Milk, Ice and Smoothie Mix

The fourth smoothie recipe wasn't a recipe at all but a mix from the grocery store. It's a powder that combines with strawberries, milk and ice.

Looking at the list of ingredients, the powder contains a ton of sugar (and corn syrup solids). So, it's not what I'd call healthy.

The package also claims that it contains 3 servings, but as with the other recipes, we could only fill two glasses.

This smoothie was most similar to that served at the mall but couldn't duplicate it exactly. It tasted like strawberry milk – the kind that I used to make as a kid with the canned Nesquick strawberry powder. It was almost too sweet, if there is such a thing.

The Winner Is...

On the surface, it wouldn't seem like any of the above recipes are deserving of a win.

The first three had some flavor issues, and while the last was taste-bud-friendly, it's really just a candy bar wrapped up in strawberry packaging.

However, the yogurt smoothie had promise, as long as it's refrigerated. And I can probably live without the extra dose of sugar. I've found that when I eat something that doesn't taste quite right, the more I'm exposed to it, the more I like it. Maybe it's just a matter of getting my taste buds acclimated.

For instance, when I first began eating sugar-free applesauce, it was as sour as a Sour Patch Kid. But, as I ate it over the course of a week, it no longer tasted tart. Now it's my barometer for normal, and if I were to switch to sweetened applesauce, I'd probably have to get used to it all over again. I don't think that's a bad thing.

Do you have any favorite smoothie recipes to share?

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