When I got married, my parents gave me their blender. I don’t have its exact date of origin, but it wasn’t much younger than I was, a child of the ’70s. No matter — I was simply grateful to have an appliance in which to make margaritas.
Later, I used it for more ambitious projects, like mixing baby food for my infant daughter, pureeing pumpkin for homemade pies or making my own salsa. I ignored the burning rubber smell that emanated from the motor. If it was good enough for my 20s, it was good enough for my unbearably late 40s.
The pandemic changed all that. I discovered the best way to avoid making dinner when I didn’t feel like it was to cheerfully call out at about 5:30 p.m., “Anyone up for a smoothie?” I’m therefore ecstatic to report that, last month, we welcomed our newest family member: a 2020 model blender. We call him Lil’ Crusher.
Here are a few recipes we’ve tried with our brawny young tyke, who can incidentally hold a maximum of 72 ounces, has a useful pulsing feature and possesses what is said to be “total crushing power.”
Cucumber Apple Mint Cooler
Take 1 medium to large peeled cucumber and put it in the blender with 2 large apples and 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint. (You can seed the cucumber and peel the apples, if you like, but I don’t because it’s tedious and I like a little texture.) Add 8 to 10 ice cubes and 1/3 cup apple juice concentrate. If you don’t have apple juice concentrate, add a cup of apple juice instead. For extra mintiness, you can also add — if you have it — a few drops of peppermint oil (make sure it’s the edible kind and not a toxic chemical fragrance compound, because that would be unpleasant indeed). For a little creaminess, add 1/3 cup almond milk or nonfat milk. Blend it on high until it’s, you know, blended. For maximum classiness, garnish with a mint sprig and a cucumber slice.
This is my husband’s favorite smoothie recipe because it’s easy. (I can say these sorts of things because I know he won’t read this story.) Put 3 cups of frozen mango chunks in the blender, along with 1 or 2 frozen bananas and 1 cup of fresh or frozen spinach. Add just enough water or juice (whatever juice happens to be in the fridge — it’s all part of the Great Smoothie Adventure) to ease the blending process, blend and done!
I love it this recipe because it uses one of my favorite life hacks: the frozen banana. I never throw out an overripe banana. Instead, I peel, bag and toss in the icebox. We usually have eight or 10 frozen bananas in there, ready to be pulled out when we need a warm loaf of banana bread or to add to smoothies or just to gnaw on when the temperature rises above 92 degrees.
The basis for this smoothie is two frozen bananas, a packet of vanilla-flavored instant breakfast mix, two 6-ounce containers of vanilla yogurt and 1 cup of milk, plus 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add more milk if your blender seems to be working too hard, or if it catches on fire or explodes.
For a chocolate bananarama, use chocolate instant breakfast mix instead of vanilla and add 1/3 cup chocolate malt drink mix, plus a nice drizzle of chocolate syrup.
For a mocha bananarama, make the chocolate version but add 1 heaping tablespoon of instant coffee.
For a peanut butter bananarama, add 1/3 cup peanut butter or 1/4 cup peanut butter powder. (This works with either the vanilla or chocolate base.)
For a pumpkin spice bananarama, start with the vanilla version and add a can of pureed pumpkin, 1/4 cup maple syrup and a dash of pumpkin pie spice.
Other variations: Add a scoop of vanilla or chocolate ice cream, a dollop of sweetened condensed milk, or several squirts of canned whipped cream. I’ve even tried adding a tablespoon of cream cheese or — shhh, don’t tell my nutritionist! — leftover vanilla frosting.
Pandemic variation: Add vodka. For especially bad days, add rum.
Speaking of booze, here are two of my favorite frozen cocktails, in the interests of putting Lil’ Crusher to his noblest use.
For two cocktails, put 2 cups of seeded and cubed fresh watermelon into the blender, along with 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice, 1 tablespoon of lime syrup, 10 ice cubes and two jiggers of vodka. Serve with a lime twist and one of those little paper umbrellas. Slurp loudly.
The Moscow Marshberry
Put 2 cups of frozen blueberries in the blender with 1 cup (8 ounces) of ginger ale, 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, a drizzle of honey and two jiggers of marshmallow-infused vodka. (If you don’t have marshmallow vodka, just use regular. It’s fine! Who cares? It’s vodka!) Serve in two chilled copper mugs, or whatever vessels are at hand — bowls, flowerpots, a soup tureen, etc. Call it a day. You’ve blended hard, now it’s time to rest.