Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Vitamix Diaries

With a milestone anniversary and my birthday both coming up in April, V sweetly asked me if I had anything in particular on my wish list. Before I realized it, I heard myself blurting out "Vitamix". And so for the last couple of weeks, I have on the kitchen counter the blender of my dreams. One doesn't think of a blender as a particularly romantic gift, but in this case, money did in fact buy happiness (and many great meals.)

A Vitamix is one of those heavy-duty, high-performance, expensive blenders- a biggie as far as kitchen upgrades go. My tools and gadgets are well-loved and cared for, and they certainly get a workout in my busy kitchen. As years go by, they pay for themselves many times over. I'm still using the Braun immersion blender that I bought with my first grad student paycheck 15 years ago, ditto the food processor I bought with wedding gift money from my aunt and uncle a decade ago. I wear thrift store clothes and drive a cranky old car but save my pennies for top of the line cookware and get emotionally attached to my kitchen appliances. Priorities :)

There are many brands of high-powered blenders out there, but I didn't do much research and headed straight for the Vitamix simply because I've used it a few times when I taught cooking classes and was familiar with it. I did buy a certified refurbished blender to bring down the cost a little- and am glad I did. It looks and feels brand new.

Of course I've been busy playing with my new toy. The very first evening it was delivered, I gave it a rinse and made an apple pie smoothie for dessert- just a blend of almond milk, a handful of oats, apple (skin on and all), a dash of maple syrup and cinnamon, and ice.

Since then, I've used the blender almost every single day. With the days getting warmer, we love making iced coffee frappe in the afternoons. For two servings, I use about 1/2 cup whole milk, 1/2 cup almond milk, 3 tsp. sugar (or other sweetener; adjust to taste), 1 tbsp. instant coffee (adjust to taste) and a cup or so of crushed ice.

It blends into an amazingly refreshing drink in a few seconds. V is a big coffee snob with his shade grown Honduran coffee beans that he grinds fresh every morning and all that jazz, but he also admits to loving this frappe made with apna good old freeze-dried Nescafe.


Soups are probably the biggest reason I bought this blender- it makes them smooth as silk, as luxurious as what you find in fancy restaurants.

My standard no-recipe formula for vegetable soups-

  • saute onions and garlic in olive oil or butter
  • add a bit of flour to make a roux
  • add some milk/cream for richness
  • then lots of vegetables and water/stock, salt and pepper
  • simmer until tender
  • blend until silky smooth
This works for (a) corn and mixed veggies, (b) tomato-carrot, (c) broccoli, (d) spinach, (e) mushroom, (f) zucchini, among others. Inexpensive frozen broccoli and spinach work just as well as fresh vegetables. For broccoli, spinach, mushroom and zucchini, I use nutritional yeast to add a wonderful umami taste to the soup. This blender can actually cook soup as it blends- but I haven't tried doing that yet.

I've also used the Vitamix in some Indian cooking- it made a very smooth cilantro-coconut chutney and tomato-coconut-onion curry paste.

The blender came with a manual- called, with gravitas, "Introduction to High-Performance Blending". There are a great many things in there to try, and I've come to love the wet-chopping method, in which you add great big chunks of vegetables (say, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots) to the blender along with water and pulse it, then drain the water away to be left with finely chopped veggies in seconds. Pretty nifty. I used it to grate cauliflower and carrots to make these savory samosa-like tarts.

As I keep testing recipes with the Vitamix, I'll keep updating this post- that way, folks who have access to high powered blenders can refer to it if interested. And if you own one of these powerful beasts, I'd love to know what you like using it for.

May 4, 2015
Nut butter: I blended (pressing down with the tamper) 1 cup roasted cashews, 1 cup roasted almonds with a bit of salt and a couple of tablespoons of canola oil- it made a wonderful nut butter. V enjoyed it on good bread with a drizzle of nice honey. Can't wait to try more customized nut butters.

It is hard to scrape every bit of nut butter from the blender so it is a good idea to use it immediately for another recipe that needs nuts or nut butter (like a smoothie, or curry paste).



Instead of cleaning out the blender, I left a bit of the nut butter in and tried this recipe for chocolate nut chia pudding- it was very easy to blend, I poured it into small stemless wine glasses and chilled it for dessert, then served it with some sliced strawberries. I thought it tasted OK- very filling, not too sweet, a tad gummy. Not sure I'll be making this again.






May 5, 2016: Golden Adai, a cousin of the dosa







May 15, 2016: Creamy cilantro dressing- made from this recipe. I put in a whole bunch of cilantro, stems and all, and cut down on the olive oil (a couple of glugs as opposed to 1/2 cup)- it was thick, creamy and flavorful. We used it on a taco salad- bed of lettuce/shredded carrots/yellow peppers, topped with sauteed onions, peppers, zucchini, fresh corn, black beans, then the dressing, a sprinkle of cheese and crushed tortilla chips. 

57 comments:

  1. I am interested that you use your blender for soups a lot - I got a froothie about a year ago (I think). We make lots of smoothies - I really love it for nut sauces (like vegan cheese sauces) but I still use my immersion blender for soups because of the fuss of tipping from saucepan - haven't tried the wet chopping method but am interested in it - do you use the drained water for soups or is it quite tasteless?

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    1. Johanna- I am excited to try making cashew cheese sauces and dips in the blender!

      I still use the immersion blender for chunky soups and love the convenience of that. But honestly with the Vitamix the soup is silky smooth in seconds and the texture makes it so worth it for creamy soups to ladle in the hot mixture.

      About the wet chopping method- the drained water is just water- totally tasteless and I just drain it away.

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  2. Vitamix was on my wishlist too when I was in US. Never got it, since my one person smoothie maker used to always somehow do the trick for basic smoothies.
    In India, I use the Ronald brand processor + mixie that my mom gifted me when we moved back. She swears by it, so I guess it must be good. Now that summer is in full swing, I am going to inaugurate it to make smoothies. I came across this smoothie recipe which sounds delish: steamed and chilled pumpkin, frozen banana, oats, milk, cinnamon and almond butter.
    We also made aamras in our blender last week. First aamras of the season (I had a blissful hangover hours later).
    Enjoy your vitamix!

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    1. Neha- I've always been in two minds about whether to get the Vitamix or an Indian mixie. Both are powerful and useful for the kinds of cooking I do. Congrats on your new mixie and hope you enjoy it! Aamras sounds perfectly blissful :)

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  3. Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary. Enjoy your new blender. :) Sounds like it is wonderful..

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  4. I got a Vitamix on Black Friday last year. I'm a lot like you, love and use my kitchen appliances well. My favorite smoothie is a cup of almond milk, one frozen banana, a spoonful of unsweetened almond butter and a spoonful of cacao powder..delish! I use it for a lot of our indian style spice pastes. I did not know about the wet chopping method, will try this for sure. I've also used it to make almond milk at home, although I don't do this very often. I sometimes make smoothie packs (different fruits, greens etc) and stash them in the freezer. Then, I just have to dump a pack along with some liquid into the Vitamix and voila, smoothie ready, no prep necessary.
    Looking forward to seeing more posts with your Vitamix.

    -Anu

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    1. Anu- I've been meaning to try making nut milk just to try, although I seriously doubt I will make nut milks on a regular basis. I'm not a big fan of smoothies but come summer, they might be a refreshing change once in a while. If you try anything fun with your Vitamix, let me know :) we can swap notes.

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  5. I did buy the Vitamix last year and my two happy uses of it(the others are all standard - soups, smoothies etc) are -
    - making restaurant grade gravies without the added butter and cream - just grind half the onion-ginger-garlic-tomato sauce and it makes things super creamy
    - making fresh moong dal and rice flour - you freeze the dry daal for a few hours and then grind to a flour - bonus - you get the consistency you want. The freezing neutralizes the heat generated during grinding. I first tried this when I was making a ton of pithala for a party and ran out of besan but had some unused chana daal!

    My summer ambition is to make fresh bhajani and bhakri pith - will let you know how that goes

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    1. Vishakha- Awesome! Gravies do turn out so smooth and tasty in this blender. The fresh moong dal flour sounds very intriguing, and what a great idea to freeze it before grinding. Please do keep us posted on the fresh bhajani experiments- I am very interested!

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  6. Hi Nupur,

    Congrats on your Vitamix. I love mine and wish I had got it sooner...Just because of how durable it is and it would last a lifetime :)

    I use it to make idli/dosa batter when I am not in the mood for the elaborate wet grinder procedure. I use the same ratios and will be done with the complete process in 10 minutes. You can achieve about 70 percent quality for idlis and dosas are just fine. The compromise in quality is okay for the time saved I think. I use the trick of adding ice cubes while grinding so as to not overheat the batter and let it whirl a bit on low speed to aerate the batter. Other than that making any Indian food that require any sort of blending with coconuts and spices is a breeze especially when it needs to be done in a large batch.

    I will retry the wet chopping method and look forward to your tips to putting to use this lovely kitchen gadget more!

    Best,
    SS

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    1. SS- Glad you love yours and yes, I too wish I had bought it sooner! I usually make big batches of idli dosa batter in my giant grinder. But am very interested in making adai batter in the Vitamix. Thanks for the tips of the ice cubes. Yup, coconut and spices grind beautifully in this machine. I am excited to see what else it can do.

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  7. And Happy Birthday Nupur!

    SS

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  8. Congratulations on the milestones!

    I've had my eye on the Vitamix for a while now, just not sure I will use it enough to justify the price tag. Perhaps your future posts will give me just that!

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    1. Radhika- I understand- I hesitated for years for just that reason. Now that I have one, I see that I'm using it nearly every day. It is a good investment for the enthusiastic home cook.

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  9. Congratulations on the anniversary and Vitamix! And happy birthday! I have been eyeing the Vitamix for a while. Almost wishing my Preeti mixer breaks down to buy this as I don't have counter space for two blenders! Does it come with a small jar as the Indian blenders?

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    1. same here! lol. stop working you preeti!!!

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    2. Well, you don't really have to wait for it to stop working. Maybe you could give it a new home with a friend/relative who could use it, or even sell it for a fair price. I know I've happily bought and sold gently used kitchen tools/appliances, and in fact my husband's cousin passed on her wet grinder to us when she wanted to buy a newer, more compact model, and I can honestly say it was the best gift ever!

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    3. Oh and Sangeetha- this blender came with only one jar- a giant 8 cup capacity one. They do sell another jar that's designed for dry grinding (it is pricey and I may buy it at some later point), but no smaller jar as Indian blenders have. However, I've made small quantities of chutney and salad dressings in my big jar and since the blender comes with a tamper to push food down on the blades, it did a nice job of the small quantities.

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    4. Ah, never thought of that! :D vitamixxxx you look more real now ;)

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    5. I did dry grind daal into flour in that big jar and it did a great job

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  10. Hi Nupur,

    Making coconut milk is also very easy with the Vitamix. A bag of frozen coconut and a good strainer is all you need. It takes 5 minutes to extract really thick and flavorful coconut milk. I remembered this after reading the nut milk extraction.

    SS

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    1. Good to know, SS! I have to say that it is not easy for me to find frozen coconut in my small town and I like the canned coconut milk well enough (and it is easy to find). But will give it a try someday.

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  11. Happy anniversary and birthday Nupur!! Is the vitamix better than the indian mixie? Comparable? Your thoughts?

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    1. H- I have never used an Indian mixie so I can't say.

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  12. Happy birthday Nupur. I found an interesting article comparing blenders as an addendum to your post. I'm in no way associated with it, but found it useful hence sharing. Do check the comments in the article for more user insights.http://thesweethome.com/reviews/best-blender/
    Thanks,
    Anu

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  13. Happy Birthday! What version of the Vitamix did you buy?

    Thanks! Ram

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    1. The Vitamix 5200 Standard certified refurbished- which I believe is their most basic large size blender.

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  14. Happy Birthday Nupur !!!
    Love and Good Wishes,
    Rehana

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  15. Happy birthday, Nupur!
    Deepa.

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  16. What a wonderful and well deserved gift! you will do it justice, no doubt.
    I saw the Vitamix (a demo) 8 years ago in Costco and though it all sounded fantastic ( the demo guy blended fruit to make smoothies,, and he added everything, seeds, cores, strawberry tops- leaves and all) and the end product was SO smooth, no trace of seeds or anything. We were mighty impressed but at that point, with the baby due in a few days, we did not consider investing about $400+.
    Maybe sometime in the future, once my mixers /blenders (in the plural) break down one-by-one.

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    1. Hi Manasi- yes, at hundreds of $ this is not an impulse purchase! I never did own a mixie and the blender was a basic one so this Vitamix is kind of a game changer in my kitchen now. But the basic blender was working fine and is now donated to Lila's preschool kitchen where they will hopefully enjoy it!

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  17. Great gift! Happy Anniversary and Birthday. Ours is a milestone anniversary this year too..:)

    I love using my Vitamix for making smoothies (it is the only way, right now, that I can get my kids to eat green, leafy, vegetables. Also works great for pureeing cooked greens into pasta sauce). In addition to smoothies, I use this for making Dosa, Adai and Pesarettu Batter (I justified buying it years ago because I thought it would save me from buying an ultra grinder and it did!). My mom's used mine to make idli batter as well and it comes out great. I also use it to make hummus. I've also used it to make baby food..It is probably one of the most used kitchen gadgets for me and very multi-purpose. I've often wondered if it was the right investment but I do use it a lot (I actually didn't use it the first few months after we bought it as I was so scared I'd ruined it..lol).

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    1. I meant - I was so scared I'd ruin it (not ruined)

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    2. Yay for staying married ;)

      I just soaked dals for adai, Lavanya and looking forward to making adai batter tonight for dinner. It is great that you're getting so much use out of yours- expensive appliances have to be used often to get your money's worth :)

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    3. I am scared to make dosa batter because I heard that the wet grinding rice bit kills even a Vitamix. Tell me how it worked for you?

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    4. Vishakha- the adai batter worked beautifully- I'll post the recipe and details in a few days.

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  18. Happy birthday Nupur :-)
    What an awesome gift. We're celebrating our milestone wedding anniversary tomorrow as well.
    We purchased Vitamix few years ago and it's worth the investment; every penny. We regularly use it to make smoothies. In addition, I make soups (tortilla soup being the favorite), pasta sauces, dips, gravies etc and I refrigerate.We've also made slush during summer months and we love it.

    After I read your post about wet-chopping,I made cabbage curry and brussel sprouts curry using the vitamix chopper.This is one gadget I use every day.Best part of it is - any leftover fruits, veggies end up in a soup or smoothie. Nothing ever gets thrown and no one knows what goes in it :-) haha

    Enjoy your new gift :-)
    Meena.

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    1. Congrats on your milestone anniversary, Meena! And wishing you many more. How nice that you use and love your Vitamix. I am waiting to try that tortilla soup (saw the recipe in the manual). It does make amazing slush, very refreshing in the hot weather that's arriving soon. I so agree with you that all food can be used and it minimizes waste.

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  19. Belated Birthday & Anniversary wishes to you Nupur. Hope you have a great year ahead

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    1. Thanks Madhuli- hope you are well!

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  20. Happy birthday! Happy anniversary! And though I had no milestone celebrations, I bought a Vitamix in March :) I use it primarily for green juice. Greens, fresh pineapple, mint and ginger. I was sorta afraid it would be like sludge but the texture is amazing--it's very light and frothy. Delish!

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    1. Mmm- that sounds good! I haven't made green smoothies or juices so far. Glad to hear it is tasty!

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  21. Belated wishes for your birthday and anniversary both! Vitamix is a great choice. I have never used it myself but have seen others use. How would you compare to the old Sumeet?

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    1. Thanks Anjali! I've used a Sumeet maybe once or twice in my life (years ago, cooking as a teenager) so can't really say how it compares to the Vitamix.

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  22. Happy birthday and happy anniversary Nupur! I too hesitated and thought and thought for a long time before buying the vitamix. just realized that its been almost 5 years now! Its definitely one of my favorite appliances. Idli/dosa/handvo/dhokla batter turns out great (I don't have a wet grinder). soups and gravies are great too. After resisting internally for years I started making smoothies a few months ago and love them now. they turn out amazing in the Vitamix. I also use it for homemade 'loni' or butter. so yes - well loved and well used. i am sure you will enjoy it!

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    1. Nisha- Thanks for the wishes :) I am glad yours has lasted for 5 years and is still going strong! I want to make butter one of these days. And ooh handvo and dhokla would be fun to make.

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  23. Belated wishes! :)

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  24. Belated birthday and anniversary wishes Nupur! Aah!I'm wishing for a Vitamix now. I didn't know a certified refurbished option was available, will look for that. Your writeups and recipes are awesome as usual. Wish you a wonderful year and culinary journey ahead!

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    1. Thank you so much for this nice note, Pal :)

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