The cocoa powder will dull the otherwise bright green smoothie, but the flavor it brings will brighten your day.

I started experimenting with smoothies a few weeks ago to introduce more raw foods into my diet, and to hopefully perk up my energy and overall well-being. Strangely enough, I found smoothies made mostly of fruits made me extremely tired, and only after drinking a cup of coffee was I able to get back to work! I read several recipes for green shakes, all sounding pretty gross until I came across one that used greens, fruits and avocado. I found this the most delicious and versatile, and you could add flavors like blueberry, banana, chocolate, peanut butter, strawberry, etc. The avocado–and the addition of the different flavors–seemed to help tame the leafy green taste, and you still get a nutritious, vitamin-packed smoothie.

Here is what I made this morning using my favorite green smoothie ingredients: kale, apples, avocado and dates (it is not entirely raw because of the roasted cacao nibs, cayenne and cocoa powder.) I prefer the more nutrient-dense kale over spinach, and the taste is mild enough to let the other delicious flavors come through. I added just enough banana for additional creaminess and sweetness. Feel free to adjust any of the ingredients to your liking:

Green Morning Smoothie with Cocoa and Banana

1/2 apple, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 kale leaves, chopped (about 1 cup packed)
2 dates, soaked for an hour or overnight
1/2 ripe avocado, chopped
1 two- or three-inch-piece ripe banana (the riper, the better!)
1 packet of Stevia, or 2 teaspoons sweetener of your choice
2 teaspoons cacao or cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon broken cacao nibs, plus extra for garnish (optional)
1 teaspoon hemp seeds (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 -3/4 cup soy or almond milk
1 cup water, plus more, if needed

Add everything in a blender, add enough water until it reaches 3/4 of the level of your ingredients. Mix on medium-high speed until blended, adding more water if needed. Pour into glasses, garnish with ground cacao bits. Makes about 20-24 ounces.

Chocolate Avocado Shake
This shake is more chocolatey. The sunflower seeds and cacao nibs give it an extra crunch!

1/4 avocado, chopped
1 stalk celery
2 kale leaves, about 1/3 cup packed
1/4 apple, chopped
1 pitted date, chopped
3 inch piece frozen banana, sliced (about the length of your index finger)
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds (optional)
2 roasted cocoa nibs (about 2 teaspoons ground, optional)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon stevia
1 teaspoon agave syrup (or leave out and use all stevia)
pinch salt
pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 – 3/4 cup soy milk
1/2 cup water

Put everything in a blender, pouring liquids last. Blend until nice and thick, adding more water and sweetener to taste.

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