Baby, Hold together

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This looks to me like the interior to the Millenium Falcon. By Kelapstick (Own work – Based on File:STSCPanel.jpg) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Alas, no one had a Lego model of the Millenium Falcon that they wanted to share on Wookiepedia Commons. (My cousin had one. Grrr.)   However, I thought I’d feed my starving food fans with a boring post about making blender smoothies.

Normally I’d come up with more dessert, but I have this thing called Lent. Since giving up dessert is such a common little cross to bear for the Lenten season, it seems nigh cruel to go with that.

With our “Baby, Hold Together”, title, I’m looking at a hidden aspect of smoothie making: binders. Binders are something that no one wants to talk about. It comes dangerously close to “additives”, which is right next to the “preservatives” slot, which is next door to where Satan does his dirty laundry. Most people just don’t want to go there. But, that’s why you read me– I will go there.
The two classical choices are ground chia seed and ground flax seed respectively.  These are generally ok, though you have to grind them fine and add water first before dumping them in, otherwise your drink will be– distinctly gritty. Chia in particular is strong stuff– go for a 1 tablespoon tops. It binds up so tight with a small amount of water that it can be difficult to get the lumps out. Seriously, let the blender handle it and pour it in before things get too tight to untangle.

With flax, you can use up to two tablespoons, then put the spurs to your seed solid coffee grinder. I have one that I use only for spices and seeds. This way, my smoothies don’t taste like burnt coffee.  Add warm water, stir, and add while the blender is still working. But make sure your speed isnt’ too fast during this phase, or you could add wear to the engine.  The slower your blender runs, the more torque it has, so it can endure extra load more efficiently on a lower speed.

Then there’s lecithin.  I generally don’t do this, because pretty much all that you can get that’s commercially available is made from soy.  However, it works pretty well. One teaspoon a good amount for this purpose, and is quite effective.

There’s powdered eggwhites– but ew.  It’s irrational, but I’d rather use guar gum.

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Ton Rulkens [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

For guar gum, you dont’ have to add very much. I use a scant 1/8 teaspoon, and it thickens as well as binds, and the whole shebang becomes more filling. It doesn’t seem to change the flavor, and it doesn’t add lumps, so I give it the thumbs up. Though I do feel– more hungry later, so weigh your balance carefully.

There are some fruits that also bind all by themselves. Dragon fruit, and kiwi will bind things together extremely nicely. I use the same effect to make some awesome fruit based vinaigrettes. Personally I think all those little seeds are a bonus.

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By T.Voekler (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

They add a nice snappy texture, with even less “poke-em-in-the teeth” irritation that you get from sesame seeds. They just grind up and go away, and tend not to get lodged in places. Though some people swear that these fruits are slimy.   You can get the same effect from persimmons, guava and even– to a lesser degree, sweet potatoes too.  No, I’m not talking about using okra pods. That’s just wrong.

Another option involves additives that you didn’t have to add.  I find that using almond milk from Silk or white wave or any of those other brands that have a thick-ish mouth feel use enough xanthan gum that you really don’t have to worry about your “stick-it-togetherness”. At least, if you use a protein powder, too. I’m unclear on why the protein powder would make it more effective, but I guess it makes sense. I know my protein powder isn’t much of a binder by itself.

Some coconut butters also have this effect, others don’t. I haven’t figured out the mechanism yet. I will post more if there is interest in this area.  I have also discovered that sunflower butter (since sunflowers are another source of lecithin, I guess I’m not surprised) will also have an effect. I tend to use about 1/2 a tablespoon. It adds a nice nutty flavor, though most brands are also kind of salty, so do as you think wise.

Another option is aloe vera. Again, it is more effective with a protein powder.  IT has a kind of weird flavor, that apparently other people can’t really taste. You have to experiment with this one. Maybe if it’s not used with Kale it won’t be a problem.

You can add glycerin  too, but that might be hard core. All it adds is a touch of sweetness, but we are so used to it being in medicine cabinets that we don’t really remember that it originally came from food.

There is one last thing you can use, that is also pretty hard core, but also very good for you. It will make your vegetarian friends angry, and the vegans will go to war. It’s gelatin.  I guess there’s a veggie variety out there, but I haven’t used it in this context.   The danger here is that what your smoothie will turn into soup. This is not always a bad thing, but certainly not what you want if you are intending to make a smoothie. It develops a nice head but it’s lightly bubbly, not weirdly bubbly like some others I’ve seen. IT also adds an underscore of umami to whatever you are making.  IT will also set up a little bit when in the fridge, but will relax at room temperature  I tend to use a single packet per serving, or whatever the box says is a serving for a healthy beverage.  I think it’s three tablespoons. [Ed: Wrong. It is ONE tablespoon.]You really need to bloom it first for good results: that is, add some cold water (a tablespoon or two) then stir, then let it sit for about a minute. Then, you add some boiling hot water (say three tablespoons to half a cup) then let it get all melty. Toss it in and let her rip.

Well, that’s what I got today for the food fans.

Um, now we get to talk about another awkward subject. I suspect that a number of people were not pleased about the way I handled the pope’s retirement here.  Frankly I was a bit flip because I didn’t know how else to take it at the time. It is not something I expected Pope Benedict to do, but I trust him, not only because of Jesus’ Promise, but because he has, as far as I can tell, always had good judgment, as a man, and as a Pope.

I’m sorry if I have offended anyone. It’s still just weird and I’m getting used to it in my strange slow way.

When I was in high school, I had to take a aptitude test. Guess what I got? You guessed it, forensic analyst. That is, the person who cuts up cadavers while eating and makes bad jokes about how the guy died. No tact whatsoever. This is why, if I’m going to a funeral, I make sure to keep very very quiet. Because I will either cry, or say something that I don’t mean to be offensive, but always strikes the wrong note. Now, why did I decide to make a blog again?  🙂

EDIT: Please note that I know that not all forensic analysts are like this. I even know one. But you can’t deny that it’s… a trait that can be common.

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