The Real Food Journal
They say that colds have nothing to do with the cold. Yet I just can’t shake the idea that getting chilled to the bone on a wintry day is a surefire way to invite the rhinovirus in. As the chill wind blows hard across the snowy landscape, it must be weakening me as it makes my nose run and my eyes water. Add wet socks on cold feet and I feel my defenses dropping.
I suppose the best way to avoid the cold is not just to bundle up. We have to build our defenses from the inside out. Luckily, there are some fortifying foods that can help you fight off those opportunistic bugs, with just a quick and easy buzz in the blender.
Immune Boosting Foods
I have been a turmeric fan for years, and it looks like the world is coming around to the amazing effects of the golden root. I’ve written about my favorite fresh turmeric-laced Dal soup and the protective qualities of turmeric in a turmeric tonic for skin. Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory food, and that alone makes it a good thing to keep your body in top shape for fighting off a cold.
Vitamin C is a classic for fighting colds, so this juice has a one-two punch, delivered by both rosehips and fresh clementines.
Rosehips are the seed pods of spent roses, and are often overlooked in the lists of super-healthy foods. They are available in the bulk section of many Coops, and are really inexpensive, considering all the nutrients they harbor in their purplish red pods. According to nutritiondata.com, an ounce of dried rosehips has 199% of the daily recommendation for Vitamin C, as well as 24% of the Vitamin A. They are a very good source of manganese and a good source of E, K, calcium and magnesium. An ounce is alot of rosehips, a rounded quarter cup by my measure, so make your rosehip tea strong, as I did in this recipe. If you want to get every bit of the nutrients from your rosehips, you can add the steeped pods to the blender, and it will need a little more honey to balance out the tartness. The mixture will be thicker, too.
Clementines are those little mandarin oranges that are popular this time of year, I bought two bags for the price of one, so we can keep a bowl of them on the table and eat them as snacks. Like oranges, they are full of Vitamin C and antioxidants and taste great.
Ginger is an age-old home remedy, and there are studies showing that it kills viruses and bacteria. It warms you from the inside, and the peppery juice helps clear your throat.
Raw honey is another favorite to soothe your throat and give you some natural antibiotics. Some honeys, like Manuka, are so potent with antibiotic activity that you can use them on wounds. If you have some Manuka honey, definitely use it in this.
The Vitamix Makes it Fast
For this juice, I used the Vitamix to make sure to get every bit of the goodness from these foods. Whole Clementines, turmeric and ginger get blasted into liquid form with the powerful blades, making it easy to drink and enjoy. The only planning ahead was in brewing the rosehips into a pink tea for the base liquid.
If you don’t have a Vitamix yet, scroll down and enter to win one. You can also win a copy of my latest book, 300 Best Blender Recipes Using Your Vitamix (Robert Rose.) There’s a whole cahpter on whole juices like this one.
As winter wears on, I am glad that I have potent real foods to help me battle with the germs everyone else is swapping around. The best defense is, well, a good defense!
Immune Boosting Juice
Makes about 1 1/4 cups
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons dried rosehips
2 tablespoons sliced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sliced fresh turmeric
2 small clementine tangerines, peeled
1 tablespoon raw honey (optional)
In a heat safe cup, pour boiling water over the rosehips and let steep until completely cooled, about an hour. You can do this ahead of time and chill the tea ’til serving time.
Strain out the rosehips and pour the tea into the Vitamix container. Add the ginger, turmeric, tangerines and honey. Secure the lid and select Variable Speed 1. Turn on the blender and gradually increase the speed to 10, then High. Run for about 45 seconds, until the turmeric and ginger are completely pulverized.
Serve within 24 hours.
This week, I taught a class on “superfoods.” Of course, that meant that I got to cook with some of my favorite flavor-, color- and antioxidant-packed foods. But one that I didn’t have room to squeeze into the menu was the cabbage.
Sure, the blueberries and pomegranates get most of the limelight for their antioxidant punch, but let’s not throw shade on the everyday cabbage. Like all its brassica brethren, this cousin of kale is a plant-based powerhouse of protective phytochemicals.
Classic Peasant Food
I usually have a hunk of cabbage in my vegetable drawer, holding its own for weeks at a time in a ziplock bag. Unlike so many fragile foods, the sturdy cabbage can be stored and taken out every time you need a sliver for salad or a wedge for stir-fry. But once in a while you just need to finish it off in a feast like this soup.
The cabbage has a slightly spicy flavor when raw, but when you roast it, the natural sweetness comes to the fore. By tossing it with olive oil and sliding it in the oven, I was able to get both moist and juicy caramelized cabbage chunks and a few slightly charred leaves to give the mix some complexity. All while I went about my business, ignoring the magic happening in the oven.
The Vitamix Purees and Heats the Soup
Once it’s all soft and sweet, it just takes minutes to puree the veggies with some creamy raw cashews. Nobody will miss the dairy. With just a cup and a half of water, the resulting puree is so thick and rich, you would swear that there was cream in there. Nuts of all kinds are in the superfood category, thanks to essential fatty acids, protein and fiber.
The Vitamix is such a powerful blender that it not only makes a super-creamy soup, but it also heats the soup to a piping hot serving temperature. Just let it run and it will start steaming to let you know it’s ready.
So if you want to enter to win your own Vitamix 5200, scroll on down to the bottom of this post and dive right in.
Until then, you can make this in a food processor, just add the water at the end, gradually, as the rest of the ingredients become smooth.
We can celebrate the cabbage with a superfood soup that feels like a decadent indulgence.
That’s a win-win in my book!
Creamy Roasted Cabbage Soup with Rosemary
1/2 small cabbage, sliced
1 large carrot, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish
2 large garlic clove, sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
18 small Brussels sprout, halved
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup raw cashews
Preheat the oven to 400 F. On a large sheet pan, place the cabbage, carrot, onion, rosemary and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then toss to coat. Roast for about 45 minutes, stirring halfway. When all the vegetables are super soft and some are well-browned, take out.
While the cabbage is roasting, place the brussels sprouts on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with smoked paprika and salt to taste. Roast for about 20 minutes. Make sure to save the oil to drizzle over the soup.
When the cabbage is cooked, place the water and raw cashews in the Vitamix container. Add the cabbage mixture and secure the lid. Select Variable Speed 1 and turn on the machine, then slowly increase to Speed 10, then High. Blend for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is velvety smooth. If desired, blend for 2 minutes longer to heat the soup.
Serve 1 cup per bowl and garnish with 12 Brussels Sprout halves and a drizzle of the oil they were roasted in, and a fresh rosemary sprig.
Tacos. We love them, whether they are from a taco truck or the ones you make with a powdered seasoning packet from the store. (Don’t scoff, I’ve been asked to make those by high end private chef clients, so somebody really connects with the spice packet!) Crunchy shells, soft shells, just give us tacos. So it’s no surprise that we have Americanized the simple taco of Mexico by creating all sorts of fusion tacos. Korean tacos, Indian tacos, Thai tacos, all delicious in their own right.
For my entry into the not so authentic but darn tasty taco competition, I got a craving for the flavors in my favorite Walnut Beet Burger with a little more spice and excitement. So I cranked up the Vitamix to do the work of mincing up the beets, onions and walnuts.
And yes, you can enter to win a Vitamix a little further down….
Everybody knows the Vitamix is great for making smoothies and other purees. But It’s often overlooked as a tool for mincing. When I was taking a deep dive into everything the Vitamix can do for my book 300 Best Blender Recipes Using Your Vitamix, I explored the ways in which a fast, powerful blender can do more than just puree.
To make this taco filling, you’ll be utilizing the blender blades to quickly mince the hard beets. It goes so quickly, it’s really more of a matter of restraint than anything else. Just drop the pieces in one after the other, and the machine chops them and flings them up on the sides of the container, so you can add the next one. Then just scrape the mince into the hot pan. no need to wash the container, just follow with the onion, add to the pan, and quickly mince the walnuts to bits.
Sauteing the minced vegetables takes hardly any time at all, since the pieces are so small. A chopped tomato, some garlic and spices, and boom, you have a savory, slightly spicy taco filling. The sweetness of the beets, the richness and hint of bitterness from the walnuts, and a touch of miso round out a rich flavor. A few taco add-ins, like creamy avocado, tomato, lettuce and drizzles of sour cream and hot sauce, and you have a meal. Add a squeeze of lime for a little contrast, and it’s heavenly.
If you like real heat, feel free to add more. I live in Minnesota, where this might even be considered medium-hot.
Enjoy the tacos, and check out the chance to win below.
Chipotle Walnut Beet Tacos
Makes 4 tacos
3 medium beets, peeled and cubed
1/2 medium onion, quartered
1 cup walnut halves
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon red miso
1/2 teaspoon salt
small corn or flour tortillas
Remove the plug from the Vitamix lid and secure the lid. Select Variable Speed 6 and turn on the machine. Drop the beet cubes, one at a time, through the hole in the lid, mincing each before adding the next. It goes quickly. Spread the oil in a large saute pan and place over medium high heat. Scrape the beets into the pan and stir. Set the Vitamix container up again and repeat with the onions, scrape out into the pan. Put the container back on the machine, replace the lid and turn it on. Drop the walnuts in and mince, it only takes a second, so don’t make butter.
Add the tomatoes, garlic, oregano, chipotle, cumin, chili powder, miso and salt. Mash the miso into the mixture as you stir. Stir and scrape the beet mixture for about 8 minutes,until the beets are tender and the onions are soft. When the pan gets dry and the mixture starts to brown and stick, take off the heat.
Serve hot in tortillas, with tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, cilantro, and sour cream, if desired, add hot sauce.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
It’s a big fat giveaway this month, and I’m so happy to be able to give you a shot at winning your very own brand new Vitamix! Yes, thanks to the generous folks at Vitamix, you can enter to win a 5200 model, to make all your blending dreams come true. Along with it, you’ll get a copy of my latest book, 300 Best Blender Recipes Using Your Vitamix (Robert Rose Books) and one other winner will get the book by itself. That’s the option for those of you who already have a Vitamix!
While researching and testing the recipes for 300 Best Blender Recipes, I got to put the 5200 and the Professional Series 750 through their paces. The 5200 has all the power and versatility that you need. They sell new for $449.00, and will perform for you in the kitchen for many years to come.
If you want to know more about the machine, click here to see the info on the Vitamix 5200.
I’m so excited to have the chance to get this machine into the kitchen of a lucky winner. The Vitamix is the kitchen tool that allows you to crank out everything from almond milk and walnut butter to silken pureed soups. I even created a whole body care chapter for the book, and some lush body lotions, scrubs and treatments. The 300 recipes will cover you for everything from breakfast to cocktails, and the 5200 will power through it all.
So take a look at the links below and when you get to the bottom, enter to win!
You can watch me make Fresh Almond Butter and a Creamy Cheddar Sauce in the Vitamix on Kare 11 Here.
For now, check out these blender recipes:
CLICK HERE TO ENTER TO WIN!
Happy New Year 2017!
The passing of the year is seen as a moment when change is possible. Around the world, people are throwing New Years Eve parties, and marking the moment that the calendar rolls over with toasts and revelry. But don’t dismiss January first as just a day to nurse a hangover. New Years Day is a day to mark a new beginning.
The ritual of ending one year and starting another can be a powerful catalyst for making positive changes. It can also be another time to make pointlessly grand resolutions, that probably won’t stick with you past the next weekend. If your resolutions are to eat better, New Years Day is as good a time as any to add some delicious whole foods to your diet. Pledging a complete overhaul may be too much for most people, but little pledges, like doubling your vegetable intake, or doing meatless Mondays, or even going whole grain instead of white are all simple enough to pull off. Just pick things that are do-able.
The rituals and superstitions around New Years Day all see the day as symbolically setting the tone for the rest of the year. Believers take pains to not spend money or write checks, as that will set the stage for money leaving you all year. Some believe that the first person to enter your door after midnight is very significant, and make plans to have a good guest bring some symbolic gifts.
What the heck, a few gifts make for a happy New Year!
To start the New Year off right, we follow a few customs and eat foods that are thought to be auspicious. In Spain, 12 grapes are eaten at midnight, one for each month of the year. Black Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day is a Southern tradition that shows that you don’t hold yourself above the rest of us. Pork is thought to add richness that will stay all year long. Peas and beans are eaten in many cultures on New Year’s because the round beans symbolize coins and money. Similarly, leafy greens are thought to symbolize folded cash, so eating greens on the big day will bring money to you all year long. Rice is a symbol of abundance. Fish is historically served at feasts, especially dried or preserved fish, in part because Catholics don’t eat meat on religious holidays. Fish also has scales, which resemble coins, and it swims in schools, which symbolize abundance. In Chinese New Year’s, the fish is always cooked whole, to bring the most life force to the diner. Golden foods, like cornbread, bring the color of gold to your plate and attract wealth. Noodles, especially long, Chinese noodles, symbolize longevity. In Chinese New Years celebrations, a special longevity noodle is sold, one long noodle bundled up to cook whole. Don’t cut your noodles, just slurp them up for the full effect.
Hoppin’ Happy New Years Blackeyed Peas and Rice
Blackeyed peas keep you down to Earth, while carrot “coins” may just attract money. The bed of collards symbolizes cash, and we all hope for a little more cash. Rice symbolizes abundance, so eat plenty of it.
3/4 cup blackeyed peas, soaked
2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped
1 small carrot, sliced in coins
1 rib celery, chopped
1 cup long-grain brown rice
1 small chipotle chile canned in adobo, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bunch collard greens
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Soak the peas overnight, then pour off the water and put them in a small pot. cover with water by 3 inches and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, for about 30-40 minutes. Test the beans for tenderness, don’t overcook. Drain.
In a 2 quart pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the onions, carrot and celery and saute for about 5 minutes over medium heat. When the onions are clear, add the garlic and saute for another few minutes. Add the brown rice and chipotle with 2 cups water and the salt. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover tightly and reduce the heat, cook for about 35 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Take off the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
Trim the collard greens by tearing or cutting the leaves from the stems, then finely slice the stems. Reserve.
Mix 1 tablespoon olive oil in a cup with the cider vinegar, fresh thyme, paprika and salt. Pour over the cooked blackeyed peas and toss to coat.
Just before serving, heat the remaining olive oil and saute the collard stems for 2 minutes over high heat before adding the leaves. Saute, stirring, until the leaves are softened and deep green.
Serve collards topped with about 3/4 cup rice, and 1/2 cup peas on top. Drizzle with hot sauce and parsley.
Holiday entertaining is so fun, so necessary, and too often, so stressful. I know, I know, you have enough to do without having to clean the house and make food for a bunch of people.
But I promise you, it’s worth it. This is the end of the year, the big holiday season, and if I can get my gifting out of the way and find time to vacuum the house, I have plenty to celebrate.
It doesn’t have to be stressful. Really.
Even at the holidays you can wow your guests with some homemade treats, and save a little money in the bargain. Simple treats that can be made ahead of time lower your stress level to zero. These tasty snacks are perfect for serving with a glass of bubbly, and they are so easy that even kids can make them.
Real Food Snacks
To tempt my sweet toothed friends, all I did was put some juicy mandarins and pomegranate seeds in cups with lush, rich 80% cacao chocolate. A sprinkle here and there with toasted pistachios and coconut and they look bright and festive, with the traditional red and green peeking through.
For the crunch-salty side of the snack continuum, smoked salt and smoked almonds are melded with freshly ground almond butter for a sweet and salty bit of finger food. Smoked almonds and popcorn are two of the best pairings to serve with champagne, prosecco, or cava.
Both snacks can be made up to three days ahead, with no loss of appeal. That is a quality that is essential to a party recipe- because you need to be able to set up your food a day or two ahead, then spend that last day just straightening up, having a nap and making yourself look fabulous.
Nosh without Guilt
Of course, these snarf-able, share-able party snacks are made from real food. Popcorn is a whole grain, but don’t tell anybody that. Almonds are one of the healthiest foods you can eat, packed with good fats. Seriously, eating almonds is associated with living a few years longer, no matter what else you are up to. Deep dark chocolate is a health food now, it’s so blessed with antioxidants. It’s also got a little caffeine kick, so your guests won’t start nodding off two sips in. Mandarins should be in everyone’s fridge right now, to help keep colds at bay with all that juicy Vitamin C. A few sprinkles of pistachios and coconut only add to the health-promoting cred of these treats.
So indulge without worry, these snacks are the opposite of empty calories.
It’s all about treating your friends and having a good time, so take it easy. Make these, pop a bottle of bubbly, and enjoy yourself.
Smoky Almond Butter Popcorn
1/2 cup popcorn, unpopped
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons butter or buttery sticks
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup apple juice
1 1/2 teaspoon smoked salt
1/4 cup almond butter
1 cup smoked almonds
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Have a large bowl and a parchment lined sheet pan ready.
In a 4 quart pot, combine the oil and popcorn and place over medium heat. Shake the pan occasionally as it heats up. When corn starts popping, shake every minute until the popping slows. Dump the hot corn into the large bowl and allow to cool slightly.
In a 1 quart pot, combine the butter or margarine and brown sugar and stir over medium heat until the butter is melted. Keep stirring until the mixture boils and is lighter in color, about 2 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla, apple juice and half a teaspoon of the salt, (it will bubble up and the melted sugar will harden in chunks, this is ok) then put back on the heat and return to the boil, stirring constantly. Cook until the sugar is all melted and the mixture is smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes.
Take off the heat and stir in the almond butter until smooth, then put back on the burner and stir constantly as it comes to a boil again. When the mixture is smooth and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes, drizzle over the popcorn in the bowl, tossing the corn with a heat safe spatula. Toss the corn to coat, then spread on the prepared sheet pan.
Bake the corn for about 10 minutes, just until the peanut butter coating sets and dries. Mix in the smoked almonds. Cool on a rack completely before transferring to an airtight container. Keeps for a week.
Dark Chocolate Mandarin “Shots”
2 or 3 small mandarin oranges, peeled and sectioned
3 ounces 80 % cacao chocolate, melted
pomegranate seeds, pistachios and toasted coconut shreds, for garnish
12 mini muffin papers
Line the cups of a mini-muffin tin with papers.
Remove as much of the white pith as possible from the mandarins. Melt the chocolate and drizzle in a spoonful in each cup, tapping the pan to get it down into the bottom. Drop 2 or 3 sections in each cup. Drizzle with remaining chocolate Sprinkle 4 of the shots with each of the garnishes while the chocolate is warm. Chill until serving.
Jazz Up Your Holiday with Lemony Pear Cupcakes
It’s holiday time, and we are all rushing to find some fast and easy treats to serve our guests. Preferably something a little different from the standard sugar cookie. This is not the time to push anything too healthy, at least for dessert. All you need is your blender and a few lemons and pears, and you can whip up these light and tangy cupcakes in no time.
When you think about baking a cake, you don’t usually think about the blender. I’ve made thousands of cakes, and while I’ve made them in stand mixers, in bowls with an electric mixer, or with a bowl and a sturdy spoon, I really had not considered the blender as a tool.
But once you have a serious blender like the Vitamix, you find that you can use it to make a whole bunch of things that had not occurred to you before. In this case, I’m just using it to blend the wet ingredients to a super-smooth, perfectly mixed puree, then stirring it into the flour mixture.
Try Making Fresh Flour at Home
If you like using the Vitamix to buzz up a dessert, you should definitely try grinding fresh flour in it. I’ve got a whole chapter on grinding flour and baking with it in 300 Best Blender Recipes Using Your Vitamix, and I’m amazed at how well it works. You can give it a whirl with the standard blender container that comes with the machine, and if you like it, it’s worth investing in the dry grinding container, which is designed for grinding flours and mixing breads.
Once you start grinding flours, you open up a whole world of new flavors and textures. You can even make your own gluten free flours from grains or beans. As with most foods, fresh is best!
Indulge Yourself Once in a While
Of course, I’m a whole grain lover, and usually I’m posting about the joys of unrefined flour. But life is all about balance, right? So for this holiday treat, I used cake flour, which is not whole grain. It’s fun, now and again, to indulge in a sweet that practically melts in your mouth. Then the rest of the time, enjoy the fuller flavor and heartier texture of whole grains. Adding some fresh fruit gives it a little virtuousness, and I much prefer a light and lemony glaze.
These days, cupcakes seem to have become about half cake and half frosting, or at least they look that way on TV. Let the cake shine on its own, I say, and just drizzle on a touch of tangy lemon and sugar. The bonus is that it only take a second or two to stir up.
It’s Citrus Season
This time of year you find a great variety of citrus at the store, so it’s a great time to experiment with citrus flavors. You could use Meyer Lemons, Limes, or even Blood Oranges to make these cupcakes. The dramatic red of blood oranges would be quite beautiful.
Happy Holiday Baking to you all!
Pear and Lemon Cupcakes
These little cakes are studded with chunks of sweet pear and balanced with a touch of tangy lemon. They are so tender and delicious that you may not even need a topping, but go ahead and try the lemon glaze for an extra burst of lemony goodness.
Makes 12 cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C)
- 12-cup muffin pan, greased or lined with silicone or paper liners
1 cup cake flour 250 mL
1⁄2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour 125 mL
2 tsp grated lemon zest 10 mL
2 tsp baking powder 10 mL
1⁄2 tsp salt 2 mL
2 large eggs, at room temperature 2
1⁄2 cup plain yogurt 125 mL
1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, softened 125 mL
1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract 2 mL
1 cup granulated sugar 250 mL
1 large pear, peeled and chopped 1
1 cup powdered sugar (see page 13) 250 mL
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice 30 mL (approx.)
1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract 2 mL
- In a large bowl, whisk together cake flour, unbleached flour, lemon zest, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- Place the eggs, yogurt, butter, vanilla and sugar in the Vitamix container and secure the lid. With the switch on Variable, select speed 1 and turn the machine on. Gradually increase the speed to 7 and blend for about 30 seconds or until smooth.
- Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture and stir until almost moistened. Gently fold in pear just until incorporated.
- Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, dividing equally.
- Bake in preheated oven for 27 to 30 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer cupcakes to the rack to cool completely.
- Glaze: Place powdered sugar in a medium bowl and whisk in lemon juice and vanilla. If the mixture is too stiff to pour, stir in more lemon juice, 1 tsp (5 mL) at a time, to make a thick glaze.
- When the cupcakes are completely cooled, drizzle glaze on top and let dry.
For the most accurate measurements when making baked goods, weigh your dry ingredients. For this recipe, you’ll need 137 g cake flour, 57 g unbleached flour, 200 g granulated sugar and 120 g powdered sugar.
Cake flour gives cakes and pastries a delicate, tender texture because it is very low in gluten.
Your Holiday Shopping Just Got Easier
Just in time for holiday entertaining, I’m proud to announce that my latest book has arrived in bookstores. The 300 Best Blender Recipes Using Your Vitamix (Robert Rose $24.95) is already #76 in Baby Food and #87 in Blender Books on amazon, so it is off to the races!
Of course, baby food is just the beginning, as you can see by the decidedly grown-up drink in the photo above. This project was an exploration of every kind of recipe that the Vitamix makes easier.
Yes, there are smoothies, whole juices, and creamy soups, the first things most people think of when they start lusting after a powerful blender. “Mmm, I could make smoothies after I work out,” goes the thinking. But there is so much more.
Image credit: Colin Erricson
The Versatile Vitamix
We all know that the Vitamix, and other powerful blenders, are great for smoothies. But have you ever used one to grind fresh flour and make bread? Or mince vegetables for a chunky tomato sauce, before you puree the tomatoes to silky smoothness? How about make body care products, like lotions and face masks?
Oh yes, my deep dive into blending will take you there. If you want to get your money’s worth out of your Vitamix, you can find yourself using it several times a day. Grinding coffee, making powdered sugar, even whipping cream is super quick in the blender. I have a whole chapter on energy balls and bars, essentials to take to the gym or on a long bike ride. Fresh nut butters run the gamut from peanut and almond all the way to pistachio and cinnamon walnut. Alternative milks, which cost a pretty penny at the store, are a snap to make, and you can make incredibly fresh and healthful drinks like Golden Almond Milk, infused with turmeric, with my recipes.
Fresh is Best
Grinding your own flours means that you can make just about any kind of flour, from Kamut and Spelt to gluten-free grain or bean flours. I created a fun assortment of breads, pizza crusts and other baked goods. Yes, you can even make cakes and muffins in the blender.
Using the blender to make spice blends, marinades and dressings gave me a chance to really take the blender around the globe. If you love Chiles based sauces like mole, the blender is your friend. My Ancho Chile and Plantain Mole or Green Pipian Sauce will make your south of the border menus more interesting. Ginger Mango Sriracha Sauce, Thai Blackened Chile Sauce, or Cashew Sambal may be just the sauce for your Asian food cravings. Or, blend up the Instant Creamy Spinach Sauce or Classic Swiss Fondue.
Make Holiday Entertaining a Snap
The book has a whole chapter on dips and spreads, so that you can whip up party fare or sandwich fillings in minutes. Mayonnaise, Cheesy Jalapeno Queso (and Vegan Nacho Queso) and Tapenade are just the basics, and Spicy Beet Dip or Salmon Mousse might be more your style. You can even make a whole assortment of veggie burgers and loaves- Pecan and Beet Burgers and Gyros with Yogurt Sauce are just a couple of the choices.
The book offers plenty of vegan and gluten-free options, so that you or your guests will have just what they want.
The chapter that you won’t find in most blender books is the body care one. I had a blast making scrubs, masks, lotions and skin treatments. Go ahead, read the ingredients on that bottle of lotion in the bathroom, I’ll wait. Once you look into some of those ingredients you’ll see just how much better it is to craft your own version at home, with easy to find natural ingredients. Plenty of the recipes use food you already have in your kitchen!
Make a Signature Cocktail For Your Party
But for today’s post, I’m going to help you out with your Holiday entertaining. Anybody can open a bottle of wine. You want your party to stand out with a unique cocktail. In this one, you start a day ahead to make a thyme-infused lemonade concentrate, then freeze it in ice cube trays.
And you’ll use fresh lemons and herbs, so that you get the most delicious cocktail.
Then, on the night of the party, you just blend the lemon-thyme cubes with vodka, limoncello, and tonic water. It’s like the best slushy ever, with a sweet-tart kick and a herbal note that makes it a step above your usual vodka mixer. You can easily make virgin versions for some of your guests, too, so everyone is covered.
Once you get your blender out and start harnessing the power of this kitchen tool, you won’t want to stop!
Lemon Thyme Vodka Slushy
If you like lemonade, you will love this cooling, zesty slush. You’ll need to start a day or two before you want to drink it. Once you have the lemony syrup cubes in the freezer, you have delicious drinks in the bank, to dole out on hot afternoons, or for a party.
Makes 4 servings
- Fine-mesh sieve
- 2 ice cube trays
- 4 margarita glasses
Lemon Thyme Ice Cubes
3 cups water 750 mL
1 cup granulated sugar 250 mL
Strips of zest from 1⁄2 large lemon (see tip)
35 sprigs fresh thyme 35
11⁄4 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice 300 mL
2 oz vodka 60 mL
2 oz limoncello 60 mL
12 Lemon Thyme Ice Cubes 12
1 cup tonic water 250 mL
4 sprigs fresh thyme 4
- Ice Cubes: Place the water and sugar in the Vitamix container and secure the lid. With the switch on Variable, select speed 1 and turn the machine on. Quickly increase the speed to 10, then flip the switch to High and blend for about 5 minutes, until the syrup is steaming.
- Place the lemon zest and thyme in a 4-cup (1 L) glass measuring cup or heatproof container and pour in the hot syrup. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, pressing the zest and thyme up against the sides of the cup to release the flavors into the hot syrup. Cover and let steep at room temperature overnight.
- Strain the syrup through the sieve into another measuring cup or bowl, pressing on the zest and thyme; discard solids. Stir lemon juice into syrup.
- Pour into ice cube trays and freeze for about 8 hours, until solid. Once frozen, transfer to sealable freezer bags and store in the freezer for up to 3 weeks. (Makes enough ice cubes for 8 servings.)
- Slushy: Place the vodka, limoncello and ice cubes in the Vitamix container and secure the lid. With the switch on Variable, select speed 1 and turn the machine on. Gradually increase the speed to 10, then flip the switch to High and blend for about 10 seconds or until slushy.
- Turn the machine off and stir in tonic water. Pour into margarita glasses and garnish each with a sprig of thyme. Serve immediately.
For the strips of lemon zest, use a vegetable peeler or a sharp paring knife to pare off the yellow zest in wide strips, avoiding the white pith.
There’s no need to remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs; both the stems and leaves will infuse flavor into the syrup.