Vegan Green Mocha Breakfast Smoothie

I've been reading Marion Nestle's book What to Eat and immersing myself in nutrition information to help guide my cooking and recipe development for the blog.  Since I had never taken a nutrition class in my decades of education (unless you count my one semester of "Health" in high school, which I don't), I felt like there was a world of information that I was missing out on about what foods I should be eating and how I should be preparing them.  I was even worried that I might be giving bad advice about what to eat on the blog and decided that the 524 pages of reading were a good investment.

The good news is that nutrition is about as simple, and difficult, as it has ever been - "eat less, move more, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and go easy on junk foods."  With that said, I understand that sometimes convenience wins out over health merely because we don't have enough healthy recipes and tips to make healthy food quick and easy to prepare.  Breakfast is often forgotten or satisfied with a processed breakfast cereal (or worse), but there really are better ways to start the day.

I originally developed the following recipe for myself as a quick and easy way to get a couple vegetables servings, one fruit serving, and a dose of coffee all in one cup for breakfast. Since I usually leave for work pretty early in the morning, I've grown to love breakfasts that I can take with me.  I can make this smoothie before I leave the house and drink it on my way to work.  I typically throw it in a travel coffee mug and sip it as I'm walking to work.  

Even before I invested in my beloved Vitamix, I was a big smoothie fan.  I started experimenting with smoothie recipes in high school, throwing together oats, peanut butter, banana, and soymilk in a blender before running off to dance team practice in the morning.  I have since experimented with lots of different smoothies, adding more nontraditional ingredients along the way, including spinach, squash, and carrots.

The Green Mocha Breakfast Smoothie is perhaps the most radical smoothie that I've developed.  I originally just started adding half a banana to my iced coffee in place of the agave nectar in my previous Vegan Mocha Recipe.  Then I started adding fresh spinach to the coffee because I was adding it to my other fruit smoothies without noticing a taste difference.  Then I just dove right in to the radical veggie mindset and decided to add some fresh squash too - why the hell not?

When I made it the first time I seriously wondered if it would just taste awful.  Banana, squash, spinach, cocoa, and coffee?  Yuck, right?  Surprisingly, it tastes exactly like an iced mocha should - rich and chocolaty, with enough coffee to wake you up. The truth is that many vegetables have a very mild flavor that is easily masked by the intense flavors of chocolate and coffee.  The spinach and squash blend into a puree that is virtually undetectable, except for the slight green tint of the drink.  You can substitute carrots for the summer squash in the winter when they're easier to find and more likely to be local.

Depending on what type of blender you have, you may want to steam the vegetables before using them in the smoothie.  With the Vitamix, I am able to just throw everything in raw.  However, I've used blenders in the past that don't have the same blending power and may not be able to successfully blend a raw carrot into a smoothie without leaving chunks at the bottom of your glass (not a pleasant way to start the day).   Steaming the vegetables will soften them just enough to make them blend perfectly with your other ingredients.  

Another option is to use 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin or butternut squash puree in your smoothie.  I haven't done much experimenting with canned squash puree in smoothies because I'm always saving it for a batch of Pumpkin Granola or a loaf of Pumpkin Apple Walnut Bread, but you could definitely add it to the smoothie in place of the yellow squash or carrot.

Green Mocha Breakfast Smoothie - Makes 1 serving 
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 banana, frozen or not*
1/2 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons instant coffee or espresso
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach, washed
1/2 medium summer squash, roughly chopped (or 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped)**
3 ice cubes, or 1 ice cube + 2 Tablespoons cold water*
1/2 Tablespoon almond butter or peanut butter
(Optional) 1 teaspoon (or more) flax meal
(Optional) Dash of cinnamon and small pinch of kosher salt

*If you're using a frozen banana, you won't need as many ice cubes to chill the drink and will just want to add a couple tablespoons of cold water instead.
**As stated in the introduction, you may want to steam the squash or carrots ahead of time depending on how powerful your blender is.  Once the vegetables are steamed, you can store them in the refrigerator and add them to the smoothie with the other ingredients.  No need to puree the vegetables ahead of time.

Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend until the mixture is completely smooth (30 seconds to 1 minute usually does the trick).  Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Nutrition facts for the smoothie, made with raw summer squash, almond butter, and the flax meal:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 286 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Total Carbohydrates
Dietary Fiber
Vitamin A 34%Vitamin C 25%
Calcium 16%Iron 11%

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