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Energy To Burn

Hot cocoa meets its match in the smoothie, a power-packed meal in a mug that's good any time of day.

By Dorcas Miller, October 1998

Everyone knows the therapeutic value of a mug of hot cocoa?so sweet, so rich, so restorative?at the end of a long day of hiking. But one day, inspired by the smoothie fad that's brought blender-whirling juice bars to street corners everywhere, I wondered if there were a way to one-up cocoa by bringing this concept of a wholesome, drinkable snack to the trail. Minus the blender, of course. After some mad-scientist experimentation in my kitchen, the backwoods smoothie was born, a rich, creamy, hot drink that intrigues tastebuds and reenergizes a tired body.

Cocoa and herbal tea still have a place in my pack, but when it comes to energy, variety, and texture, they pale in comparison with smoothies. Plus smoothies really pack in the calories?the kiss of death anywhere but on the trail, when you need that extra energy. While a cup of instant hot chocolate has about 100 calories and an unadulterated cup of tea registers zippo, a backwoods smoothie can weigh in with anywhere from as few as 177 calories (Hot Chocolate Smoothie) to 220 calories (Hot Pi?a Colada) to a whopping 439 calories (Hot Almond) per cup.

Three of the recipes offered here (Hot Almond, Hot Spiced, and Hot Tropical) provide not only carbohydrates for quick energy, but also fats for a longer-lasting fuel source. All but the Hot Fruit Smoothie contain at least twice the amount of protein, critical to rebuilding muscle and other body tissues, of hot cocoa.

Tastebuds easily bored with the same-old same-old will get a kick out of the unusual range of flavors in the suggested recipes. It's the combination of ever-so-slightly exotic ingredients that make it happen. Almond paste, which is made of ground almonds and sugar, yields a deep, luscious almond flavor. Orange powder delivers a zesty, citrus taste. Pi?a Colada mix contributes the unmistakable tang of pineapple. Butter powder imparts a subtle flavor that's smooth on the tongue. And coconut-cream powder or powdered coconut lend a rich, tropical essence. You'll find most of these ingredients locally or through the mail (see Resources).

Smoothies even give you something to chew on. Finely chopped dried fruit gives the Hot Fruit Smoothie body, and potato starch used as a thickener (don't worry, there's no hint of spuds) lends Hot Chocolate and Hot Spiced smoothies an unexpectedly hearty texture.

My friends and I drink smoothies as a late afternoon pick-me-up when we pull into camp after hiking or canoeing, but these hot drinks are good around the clock. They can help greet the day, double as dessert, or serve as a steaming treat at rest breaks if poured hot into an insulated water bottle or sturdy Thermos in the morning. Best of all, you won't find inedible miniature marshmallows floating on the surface.

GSI Outdoors: (800) 704-4474 for retail locations
Nisson bottles, sold at Campmor: (800) 226-7667
Outdoor Research: (888) 467-4327



Hot Almond Smoothie

Recipe Ingredients

1/2 Cup powdered milk
1/4 Cup almond paste
1 Tablespoon sugar
Serves: 1

A mere half cup of this brew has enough calories to make Roseanne blanch, so double the recipe at your own risk. This smoothie is equally good and refreshing as a cold drink. If your sweet tooth gets excited too easily, either skip or cut back on the additional sugar, since almond paste contains plenty.

At Home: Combine all the ingredients in a blender and give it a good swirl, then double-bag the mixture in zipper-lock bags.

On the Trail: Place ingredients in a mug, add 1/2 cup water (hot or cold), and stir well. Makes one 6-ounce serving.


Hot Chocolate Smoothie

Recipe Ingredients

1 1/4 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 Cup powdered milk
1 1/4 Tablespoons potato starch
Serves: 1

This makes a rich, thick beverage you're just as likely to eat as drink. I like to have one at breakfast-time with a bowl of oatmeal or as an after-dinner chaser.

At Home: Combine all ingredients and place in a zipper-lock bag.

On the Trail: Place ingredients in an insulated travel mug, add 1 cup boiling water, stir well, cover, and let stand 5 minutes.


Hot Fruit Smoothie

Recipe Ingredients

1/4 Cup dried fruit
1/2 Teaspoon sugar
1 Teaspoon potato starch
1 Tablespoon orange powder
1 Dash salt
Serves: 1

Orange powder has delectable flavor, but if you can't find it, orange-flavored breakfast drink will work in a pinch.

At Home: Place the dried fruit in a blender and swirl until it's cut into very small pieces. Mix the fruit with the other ingredients and store in a zipper-lock bag.

On the Trail: Place ingredients in an insulated travel mug, add 1 cup boiling water, stir well, cover and let stand 10 minutes.


Hot Pina Colada Smoothie

Recipe Ingredients

1 envelope pina colada mix
1/3 Cup powdered milk
Serves: 1

Team up an off-the-shelf pi?a-colada mix with powdered milk to make a very sweet smoothie that tastes a lot like dessert. Good hot or cold.

At Home: Combine the two ingredients in a zipper-lock bag.

On the Trail: Place ingredients in a mug, add 1 cup boiling water, and stir well.


Hot Spiced Smoothie

Recipe Ingredients

1/2 Cup powdered milk
1 Tablespoon butter powder
1 Tablespoon potato starch
2 Teaspoons sugar
1/2 Teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 Pinches ground cardamom
3 Pinches black pepper
Serves: 1

This concoction is not for the faint-hearted! Take the edge off by reducing the amount of ginger, cardamom, and black pepper. Guaranteed to warm you on the coldest afternoon or prime your tastebuds for dinner.


Hot Tropical Smoothie

Recipe Ingredients

2 Tablespoons pina colada mix
2 Tablespoons orange powder
1 Tablespoon coconut cream powder
1 Teaspoon potato starch Serves: 1

This is equally good with cold water.

At Home: Place all ingredients in a zipper-lock bag and mix well.

On the Trail: Put ingredients in a mug, add 1 cup boiling (or cold) water, stir well.

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