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Go straight for the Avocado Smoothie

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I recently attended the annual conference for the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), held in New York this year. Breakfast was included on a few of the days. Throughout the large eighth-floor gathering room of the Broadway Millennium hotel, long tables were arranged with a display of help-yourself fresh fruit, small cartons of yogurt and plates of fancy rich pastries, puffy New York bagels and muffins.

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I passed up the pastries and made a beeline for a table in one corner of the room every morning. Cuisinart, one of the major sponsors of the conference, had people whirling up smoothies, in Cuisinart blenders, of course. I got hooked on their Avocado Smoothie.

My first sip was instigated by the fact the creamy drink was made with avocado. I eat avocados often. Typically, I chop them to toss into salads, slice them for sandwiches and wraps and mash them for guacamole. I've never thought to add avocado to a smoothie. But why not? Avocados have a smooth, buttery texture and a rich, distinctive flavor. The majority of calories in an avocado come from the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, like those found in olive oil, olives and nuts. Avocados are a good source of folic acid, vitamins B6, C and K and fiber, contributing to heart, blood and bone health.

It was the coconut water, though, that caught my curiosity. When I was in Key West, Fla., a little over a year ago, I watched young men drain the liquid from the cavity of fresh coconuts outside of Help Yourself, an old gas station turned restaurant tucked into a residential area of the island. The coconut water was then sold as a cool beverage in the restaurant.

A friend from Minneapolis who was with me in Key West told me people in the Twin Cities were going to Asian restaurants to buy coconut water. The natural beverage is loaded with potassium. In fact, as many coconut water websites will tell you, a standard serving of the water delivers more potassium than a banana.

At that time, I wasn't aware of the hoopla surrounding coconut water. Because of its natural electrolyte content, it is often used as a rehydrating solution. Coconut water is fat-free, cholesterol-free, caffeine-free and gluten-free. It is low in calories compared with other commercial drinks. It is lower in acidity than soft drinks and commercially available rehydration drinks, therefore less upsetting for your stomach and better for your teeth.

Now I am finding coconut water, not to be mistaken with coconut milk made from the meat of the coconut, at health food stores, gas stations, convenience stores and local supermarkets. It's always been available at Asian markets.

Cuisinart's Avocado Smoothie is creamy and filling. One serving kept me satisfied through mornings packed with meetings, classes and cooking demos with no hungry tummy rumbles until lunch. Avocado and coconut water combine with banana to create a potassium-rich breakfast that can be sipped from a glass or eaten with a spoon like soup from a bowl.

An Avocado Smoothie in the morning makes it easy to pass up the pastries.

Avocado Smoothie

1/2 to 3/4 cup coconut water, chilled

1/4 cup coconut milk from a can (not lite), chilled

1 tablespoon honey, preferably local

3/4 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1/4 of a medium ripe avocado, cut into chunks

1/2 of a medium banana, cut into chunks

Put all ingredients into blender, in order listed. Blend until smooth. If a thinner consistency is desired, add more coconut water and blend until fully combined. Serve immediately.

Nutritional information, per 5-ounce serving:

Calories 177 (45 percent from fat), carb. 21g, pro. 3g, fat 9g, sat.fat 6g, chol. 28mg, sod. 449mg, calc. 22mg, fiber 3g

Recipe and nutritional information courtesy of Cuisinart.

Tips from the cook

--Find coconut water in bottles in the refrigerated case or in boxes on shelves near juices or water. Plain water or juice can be a substitute for the coconut water.

--When you open a can of coconut milk, you will discover a thick, white meaty layer at the top with liquid at the bottom of the can. Mix it well to blend before measuring it out for the Avocado Smoothie. Leftover coconut milk can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly sealed, for about a week. Coconut milk adds body and flavor to curries, stews, soups, rice dishes and desserts. It is usually found in the Asian section of the international aisle in supermarkets.

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