For anyone looking to try something new in the New Year, the answer might start with a blender and a book. This might sound like an interesting combination, but that blender that so many of us bought to make a milkshake one-time years ago can take on a whole new purpose with a little help from Catherine McCord’s new cookbook the Smoothie Project.
McCord, the founder of the family and food brand Weelicious, has devoted an entire book to the smoothie in all its many forms. From recipes for tropical smoothies like On Vacation to green smoothies such as Green Sunshine to decadent smoothies including Banana Split, she sets out to share recipes that demonstrate the versatility and excitement that can happen when you take real food and blend it together.
For McCord, a mom of three, smoothies mean a lot to her family. She first started having smoothies during her second and third pregnancies when she was having trouble with nausea. She says they were her “lifeline” during this time. Soon after, her husband was taking one with him on his way out the door for 16-hour days.
Smoothies took on even greater importance when McCord’s son began not feeling well several years ago. She got creative and began collaborating with him on smoothies for breakfast. He soon felt better, the whole family began drinking smoothies, and the result is the Smoothie Project.
For anyone familiar with Weelicious, it is clear that McCord has taken the passion she gives every day to her followers and brought it to the pages of this cookbook. Just like the many naturally gluten-free (or easily adaptable to be) on Weelicious, McCord’s book is very much the same. Even if something does not say gluten-free, like her Blueberry Muffin smoothie recipe that calls for oats, one can simply use certified gluten-free oats.
Before blending up one of her recipes, she walks readers step by step on how to set up their kitchens. She discusses everything from the differences between blenders, cups and straws to have on hand, and how to stock your pantry.
McCord recently called in from California to share insights into how smoothies went from her family to yours and also kindly shared two recipes from the book.
Can you talk about what inspired you to begin making smoothies?
My son started having headaches and nausea, and he is not a kid that complains. This just persisted to the point that I didn’t know what to do going to doctors and nutritionists trying to figure out what was happening to him. He became a vegetarian by choice when he was 5 years old so as many mothers do, especially with a vegetarian child, I found myself doing deeper into pancakes and waffles and crepes for breakfast and cheese, and I realized at the end of the day he wasn’t getting a lot of what he needed. I read this book Cure Your Kids with Food and there was a line about smoothies.
And so the next day I created this sheet that had little pictures of fruits and vegetables and proteins and I gave it to him and said you can put anything you want here in the smoothie. The next morning we tried it, he loved it, and I would give him the sheet every day for a week until it became habit and within three weeks, all of his symptoms went away. And that was almost five years ago.
Every day we still have a smoothie. At least I know for myself, for my kids, that by doing that you can invisible high five yourself that you’ve had one or two vegetables, one or two fruits, brain-building protein, so everything goes in this glass. The secret is its actually really delicious.
As this was happening, were you surprised by the evolution?
I was just doing it for my son’s health and for ourselves. Then what ended up happening was we would be having our smoothies, we would prop Gemma, who was 10 months old at the time, on the counter or I’d be having her on my hip, and she would sit there and bob her head and try to take sips, or put her mouth on our straws. And then next thing we know we would prop her on the counter as we were having breakfast and she would suck down a 10-ounce smoothie in 2 seconds flat. I started putting it on Instagram and it just caught on. People started calling her the smoothie baby.
At what point did you realize this bigger than your family?
I would say a year, year and a half into it was when I created a hashtag (#smoothieproject) and was posting more and more of it. I would post a different recipe on Instastory every day and people shared they were screenshotting the recipes, and asking, “Can’t you just make a cookbook.” I was working on another project and never thought about it. It’s a true passion project. It’s been so my fun. Even my kids have been taking the book and sharing the pages they want.
You had a wealth of smoothie recipes. Were some of the recipes developed specifically for the book?
Smoothies are a funny thing. To perfect a recipe for a smoothie, it’s true culinary work. There are certain flavor combinations. Everyone has a different palate. There is literally something for everyone.
Were you surprised by any flavor combinations that have merged beautifully together?
Throwing a whole lemon – lemon and lemon peel – in a smoothie. It’s been fun the past two weeks, since the book came out, for the Blueberry Magic Lemonade recipe, I keep getting messages, “Am I really supposed to put it all in?” I say put it all in. It makes it really zippy and fresh, but there is nothing bitter in it. Another one is putting persimmon to make Secret Mango Creamsicle.
Are there a couple of recipes that readers should definitely check out?
The Cotton Candy smoothie. It’s my version of healthy pink milk with strawberries and frozen cauliflower – it’s really classic. There are some that are a little bit more obscure such as Awake. I think a lot of people don’t know you can absolutely put coffee in the smoothies as your liquid. So that is a fun one for anyone who want more of a mocha flavor. Pure Gold has some lime zest and some turmeric.
For selective kids (and adults), which smoothies do you recommend trying first?
First and foremost I would say hand the book to the kid because the pictures are really inspiring. Berry Vanilla Shake, which is strawberries and raspberries and you don’t taste the frozen cauliflower, but you get a vegetable in there, that is really popular. The decadent chapter, its dessert, but they are really, nutritious, but the best part is they’re so delicious. We make them after dinner for dessert.
How many different types of glasses do you have in your home?
They’re a lot of glasses.
Do you think the type of glass impacts the experience?
I think your cup, your vessel, is important. I love glass straws. It is so funny to say this but a glass straw, it feels different compared to plastic or paper or even metal.
What do you hope readers take away from the book?
I hope that everyone is educated a little bit more, finds an ingredient, and is able to have an aha moment. It’s a 28-day challenge and that’s just really based on my own experience with my son, by seeing how making this one change made all the whole of difference in how he felt, how all of us felt. It’s just changing one meal a day.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity)