Spring is the season of birth and renewal, which is a natural time to reset our bodies — and there is no better way to do this than with a healthy diet. While a juice fast or hard-core cleanse may not be for everyone, supplementing a balanced diet and exercise with fresh homemade juices, smoothies and tonics is a surefire way to get into great shape. So launch your day and your regimen with the following recipes, and blend, juice and muddle your way to good health.
Click through to each page to view the recipes.
Strawberry, Peppercorn and Balsamic Shrub
A shrub is a syrup composed of fruit, sugar and vinegar. Also known as drinking vinegar, shrubs are an old-fashioned method for preserving fruit, by mixing soft ripe fruit with vinegar and sugar, then letting it sit for a few days to mingle and macerate before straining out the solids. Nowadays shrubs are enjoying a resurgence, back in vogue as a cleansing refreshment as well as a flavorful syrup for cocktails. The combination options are numerous and open to creative inspiration, but bear in mind a few rules of thumb: use ripe, soft fruit such as berries and stone fruit at the peak of season and wash thoroughly. Blend with a fruity vinegar, such as apple cider or wine vinegar. Experiment with adding fresh herbs, such as thyme, basil, mint or rosemary, which can nicely complement the fruit. Serve with sparkling water as a sprightly soda or add a splash to cocktails for a nice kick.
MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPS
- 2 cups hulled and quartered washed strawberries
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- 10 cracked peppercorns
- ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¾ cup apple cider vinegar
Combine the strawberries, sugar and peppercorns in a bowl. Mix to thoroughly combine. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days. Pour the syrup through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl, pressing down on the strawberries to extract all the juice. Discard the strawberries. Scrape any remaining sugar into the syrup. Whisk the vinegars into the syrup. Pour the syrup into a clean glass jar and refrigerate indefinitely. The sharpness will mellow with time.
To serve: Combine 1 part shrub and 2 to 3 parts water or sparkling water in a glass with a squeeze of lime.
For cocktails: Try blending 1 part shrub to 1 part tequila to 2 parts sparkling water with a good squeeze of lime.
The Liquid Lunch
A Not-So Green Smoothie
Green smoothies bring the vegetables and greens of a liquid salad into a glass. This recipe adds red beet, which dramatically shifts the color to a gorgeous magenta, while adding loads of betacarotene, vitamins and natural sweetness. If you are a timid beet-eater, substitute a second carrot for the beet. When making a smoothie or juice with greens, a general ratio to follow is 1 part greens to 1 part liquid to 1.5 parts ripe fruit and vegetables. Begin with the lightweight greens and blend with a liquid (such as coconut water, apple or orange juice) to ensure thorough chopping. Then add the heavy fruit or vegetables and blend again. This beverage can be enjoyed as a smoothie with all of its fiber included, or pressed through a strainer or juicer for a vibrant juice.
SERVES 2; MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPS, UNSTRAINED
- 1 cup kale or beet greens
- ¾ cup orange juice
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 carrot, peeled, cut into chunks
- 1 medium red beet, washed and quartered
- 1 apple, cored
- 1 (2-inch) knob peeled ginger
Combine the kale and juice in a blender and process to chop. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.
The Morning Glory
Blueberry, Banana and Almond Smoothie
This creamy smoothie is loaded with antioxidants — guaranteed to fuel you through the workday or up the mountain on a morning hike. No need for ice: frozen banana adds natural sweetness, creamy texture and instant chill to this satisfying smoothie.
SERVES 2; MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPS
- 1 medium frozen banana
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup almond milk
- 2 tablespoons creamy almond butter
- 1 teaspoon flaxseed (optional)
- 2 Medjool dates
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- Flaked unsweetened coconut
Combine the smoothie ingredients in a blender. Process until smooth. Pour into glasses and garnish with coconut and flaxseeds.
Pineapple, Lemon and Ginger Zinger
Fend off the midafternoon slump with this energizing elixir. The combined detoxifying and anti-inflammatory properties of the superstar list of ingredients, including spicy cayenne and healing turmeric, are nature’s version of a flu shot and liquid health. This is also a delicious beverage, sure to wake up your taste buds and clear your head.
SERVES 1–2; MAKES ABOUT 1½ CUPS, UNSTRAINED
- 2 cups chopped pineapple (about ½ pineapple)
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 1 (2-inch) knob peeled ginger
- ½ cup coconut water
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- Pinch of cayenne
- Honey (optional)
Combine the ingredients in a blender. Process until smooth. If desired add honey to taste. Drink as is or press through a strainer or juicer.
Kiwi, Cucumber and Mint Agua Fresca
Agua frescas are a muddle of fresh fruit, herbs and flowers combined with sugar, honey or syrup, then diluted with still or sparkling water. Ideally they are delicately sweetened just enough to refresh and to quench thirst.
SERVES 3; MAKES ABOUT 3 CUPS
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 2 to 3 mint sprigs
- 4 large kiwis
- 1 medium cucumber, cut into chunks
- 1 cup cold water
- Sparkling water (optional)
- Mint sprigs for garnish
Make the syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and add the mint. Let stand until room temperature, then discard the mint.
Mix it up: Combine the mint syrup, kiwis, cucumber and the 1 cup cold water in a blender. Process until smooth. Serve with ice. If desired, top off with sparkling water. Garnish with mint sprigs.
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition under the headline: “Spring Reset“.
Lynda Balslev is an award-winning food writer, editor and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area. She authors the nationally syndicated column and blog TasteFood, and co-authored the cookbook Almonds: Recipes, History, Culture (2015 Silver Medal Winner Independent Publisher Awards). She is the 2011 recipient of the Chronicle Books Award (Recipe Writing) to the Symposium for Professional Food Writers, and a 2018 Fellowship Award recipient to the Symposium for Wine Writers at Meadowood, Napa Valley. Lynda’s writing and photography have been recognized by the New York Times Diners Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post and more.