Archive for July, 2013

Fresh Blackberry Sorbet (★★☆☆☆)

Our backyard has a fence that’s lined with blackberry and raspberry bushes on the other side of it.  The blackberries are at their peak and we we’re bringing in about a pound a day this week.

Based on how good the Fresh Peaches Sorbet was, we decided to try to recreate that magic with fresh blackberries.  Unfortunately, the blackberries are smaller than what you’d see at the grocery store, and have a substantial number of seeds per berry.  Despite blending them for a reasonable length of time, the gritty, sand-like seeds in the sorbet meant the excellent flavor was ruined by the unfortunate texture.

Fresh Blackberry Sorbet (★★☆☆☆)
Might work better with large, juicy farm berries, but still not something I’d recommend based on the gritty texture added by the berry seeds.

1 lbs. of blackberries (half frozen, half refrigerated)
Raw honey (approximately 3-4 tablespoons)
Ice

Freeze half the blackberries in advance.  Then put the blackberries and two cups of ice in the blender.  Blend on medium to high, using the tamper and adjusting the blender intensity to ensure everything is well mixed.  Add approximately three tablespoons of honey and taste.  Sorbet can be sweetened with additional honey or diluted with additional ice.  Serve immediately.

Image

It looked good and had nice flavor, but it’s not something I’ll be making again.   Neither this nor the berry juice I made last year seem to be great uses of the berries.  Maybe I’ll come up with a great recipe involving the berries and Vitamix next summer.

Fresh Peaches Sorbet (★★★★★)

We visited a local farmers market in Troy and picked up 4 quarts of delicious utility peaches (essentially a box full of peaches with split pits) for $10.  My old 5200’s Whole Food Recipes Vitamix cookbook had a Peach Sorbet recipe, but it called for ¾ cup of sugar and only 3 peaches, which is roughly 600 calories of sugar, and seemed like a crazy ratio of peaches to sugar.  It also called for 4 cups of ice, which seemed excessive.

We’d also bought some local raw honey, and I figured the peaches were sweet enough that I wouldn’t need to use much to sweeten the peaches, so I cut up a lot of peaches, roughly a dozen, and froze half of it.  I threw this recipe together on a lark, assuming I could add more honey and ice after blending the peaches, but it went over so well with all six people I served it to that it didn’t need tweaking and I thought it’d be worth sharing.

Fresh Peaches Sorbet (★★★★★)
Fantastic frozen dessert when peaches are in season so you can pick up naturally very sweet peaches at a reasonable price.  Well suited for utility peaches.  Serves approximately 4-8 people, depending on serving size.

12 peaches (cut and pits removed)
Raw honey (approximately 3-4 tablespoons)
Ice

Freeze half the peaches in advance.  Then put the peaches and two cups of ice in the blender.  Blend on medium to high, using the tamper and adjusting the blender intensity to ensure everything is well mixed.  Add approximately three tablespoons of honey and taste.  Sorbet can be sweetened with additional honey or diluted with additional ice.  Serve immediately.

That’s it, the only magic is that ripe, local, seasonal fruit is so good it doesn’t need much help.  The reactions I got were so good that I can’t give this anything less than five stars, but I know it wouldn’t be the same with lower quality peaches.

(Update: Both pineapple and grapes can be used instead of honey)

Avocado Pits and Sweetened Condensed Milk (not together!)

I’d read about people using avocado pits in green smoothies, so when my wife was about to throw away an avocado pit tonight I asked her to keep it so I could blend it and see how bad it was.

I blended it up with some fresh blueberries a few cherries and some shiso leaves from our garden, along with a generous amount of water and ice.  I love shiso, to the point that it represents the majority of our garden at this point in the season, and even enjoy blending shiso leaves with just water and ice, but no amount of shiso or fruit was going to make that avocado pit taste good enough to make it worth drinking, even it is filled with antioxidants, potassium and fiber.  It was way too bitter and unpleasant for me to try using again any time soon.

My other recent experiment, which worked out much better, was putting sweetened condensed milk and caramel sauce on top of blended coffee ice cubes.  That turned a quirky summer bowl of (literally) ice coffee into a tasty treat, and I’ve updated that recipe to encourage anyone who tries blending coffee ice cubes to put sweetened condensed milk on top.

Iced Coffee Polar Cup / Shave Ice (★★☆☆☆)

In the summer, we keep our thermostat pretty high, and frozen treats taste that much better as a result.  In fact, when I come in on a hot day, pretty much anything frozen is a treat.

That’s basically way I keep putting coffee, mostly decaf, in ice trays and blending them in the Vitamix 7500.  The 7500 basically turns them into coffee ice dust, and the blender container has enough surface area that an entire tray ends up as powder without any chunks or slush left to circulate in the blades.

Image

I don’t bother adding anything else, I just consider it a different way to have a black ice coffee on a hot day.  Surprisingly, both my kids occasionally help me eat them as well, despite the flavor being just black coffee.  I wouldn’t be all that surprised if I’m the only one who likes it as much as I do, which is why I’ve rated it so low, but I’ve already made this a dozen times this summer, and it’s really grown on me.

It probably doesn’t need to be spelled out as a recipe, but on the off chance that it might help someone, here goes:

Iced Coffee Snowcones / Shave Ice (★★☆☆☆)
As with fruit bars, you need a stronger flavor in the frozen treat than you do in the liquid drink.  When I’m making a pot of coffee, I’ll add a little bit coffee more than I normally would, and as soon as there’s enough coffee to fill two ice trays, I’ll fill the trays and put them in the fridge.

1 tray of coffee ice cubes

Throw the whole tray in the blender and start it at 10.  Let it spin until basically nothing is making contact with the blades, which won’t take long, then turn the blender off.  (If you go past 30 seconds, you’re dealing with a different tray of ice cubes.)  Use a spatula to scoop all the snow from the container and lid into the bowl.  (A reasonable amount will be on the bottom of the lid.) If you’re in a warm room, the snow in each corner will already start clumping together, as you can see in the photo above.

Enjoy!


Edit: Iced Coffee Snowcones / Shave Ice with Sweetened Condensed Milk (★★★★☆)
Want to make this a valid tasty treat that you can serve to others?  Drizzle it with sweetened condensed milk and/or caramel sauce.  I personally prefer just sweetened condensed milk.

Why would I spend so much money on a Vitamix Blender?

I definitely understand how crazy it sounds to some people to spend three figures on a blender. I deliberated myself for a few weeks before I finally decided to buy my first Vitamix blender, and I started this blender blog in part to make sure I kept using the blender.

Two years later, I have no regrets, and would encourage people who are on the fence to buy a Vitamix. In this post, I’ll try to articulate the reasons I think a Vitamix blender is worth the price, focusing on some key points and sharing my personal experiences.

 

Extremely High Performance Blender

Almost everyone would agree that Vitamix makes phenomenal blenders. Impartial reviews universally praise the Vitamix. One such example is a blender showdown by Popular Mechanics, where the Vitamix 5200 had the smoothest results of the five manufacturers that were tested, and Vitamix shares the top spot in the most recent Consumer Reports blender rankings.

Yes, there are other high performance blenders available, but it’s good to be aware of difference between an average blender you might find at a big box store and a high quality, high powered blender. Peanut butter and hummus made with fresh sesame seeds instead of tahini paste are examples of things that you just can’t make in your average blender.

But even if you’re not interested in making something that demanding, the texture difference between an inexpensive blender and a high powered blender is profound. Something as simple as a frozen banana and milk or ice cubes and fresh fruit is amazing with the right texture. I love Hawaiian shave ice, or as it’s called in Japan, かき氷 (kakigori), but I have virtually no interest in snow cones, and the only difference is texture. Whether it’s frozen treats, soups, dips or sauces, if the texture is better, the end results tastes better.

 

Extremely Good Customer Service

I have killed my fair share of less expensive blenders. The ice cubes and frozen bananas I mentioned above that blend in my Vitamix have both been culprits in the early demise of cheaper blenders. Most, if not all, of those blenders probably had a one-year warranty, and broke inside the first year. I didn’t have any of them replaced with their warranty because I have jumped through similar hoops with other household products (most recently an electric blanket) and it usually ends up being more hassle than it’s worth, even if you did keep the receipt.

I will admit, I have a very low tolerance for automated call centers that ask me to enter model numbers with my touch tone phone and/or it require navigating multiple menus and a lengthy hold time before speaking with a representative reading from a script.

One of the reasons I purchased my Vitamix is because of the experience I had when I first called them to ask a few questions about their blender while I was on the fence. I almost immediately spoke with a real person who was very knowledgeable and answered all of my questions and concerns. I felt like, if I ever did have an issue with my blender, they would actually take care of me.

Sure enough, they did. I’ve actually had two issues with my blender, and both times, I was shocked with how good Vitamix’s service was.

My first issue, which is detailed in this post, was likely something I was partially responsible for, as I was throwing peanut butter, mochi, squash and a lot of other tough ingredients in the blender to see what it could handle. When a piece of the blender finally broke, I called Vitamix. I spoke with a representative who explained the piece that broke was designed to break under high stress to protect the rest of the blender.  She sent me out a prepaid shipping label to send everything back to VitaMix at no charge.

Less than two weeks later, I had my repaired blender back, along with a brand new blender jar, and it hadn’t cost me a dime, only a few minutes on the phone.

I was very impressed, but my second experience with Vitamix support was even better. I liked my Vitamix so much that I bought a Vitamix 7500, planning to give my 5200 to my parents for Christmas. I stuck the wrong tamper into the 7500 blender running on high and, well, there’s a picture over in this old post that’s worth a thousand words.

I called Vitamix with a mea culpa, explaining that I had done something very dumb, damaging both the blade assembly and my tamper, expecting to pay to fix one or both damaged items. Not only did Vitamix support say they would replace both under warranty, but when I explained that I was heading to Florida soon for Christmas, and that I was bringing the 5200, without blinking, the woman I was speaking with asked for my parents’ address, saying they’d try to get the tamper to my parents’ house before Christmas, and would send the blade assembly for the new blender to my house so it’d be waiting when I got back home.

In January of this year, when I was able to get a Pro 300 for free from work, they let me return my 7500 without any trouble, paying for the return shipping.  I cannot think of another company with customer service that can hold a candle to those three experiences.

 

Extremely Long Warranty

Vitamix’s standard warranty is seven years. Those customer service stories I shared above? They’re even more amazing when you consider that you are covered for seven years when you buy a new Vitamix blender. Even when you buy a reconditioned blender from Vitamix, it comes with a 5-year warranty, standard.

 

Extremely Long History

One of things that surprised me about my Vitamix is that is made in the USA. I just checked, and it is the only kitchen appliance in my house that is made in the USA, and even states proudly on the label that it is “made with a minimum of 70% U.S.A. content.” (I have a high quality Zojirushi rice cooker that is made in Japan, but outside of my rice cooker and Vitamix, every other appliance in my kitchen is, you guessed it, made in China.)

Image

Vitamix was founded in America three generations ago back when high quality kitchen appliances were built in America and built to last. They’re actually still making high quality kitchen appliances in America that are built to last.

Their current president is the great-grandson of the founder, and no blender manufacturer has been around as long, or been as focused on blenders, as Vitamix. That seven year warranty I mentioned above provides that much more piece of mind when you realize that seven years is less than a tenth of the company’s history.

 

Extremely Good Controls

Maybe this doesn’t deserve it’s own subheading, and what I’m about to go into is certainly personal preference, but I want to mention the controls. I’ve had more than one person ask me about the analog dial and switches compared to other blenders with presets and buttons.

My parents replaced there older electric stove top with a new one with an LCD that offers, L, 2-9 and H for each burner. They like it, and I’m sure there are plenty of people who prefer that, but I very much prefer having my natural gas stove, and the analog controls that go with it. That’s how I feel about the controls on my Vitamix. I don’t want to press a button with the assumption that 60 seconds is the right amount of time for the texture I’m looking for, I’d rather have control over the strength and duration.

The pulse option of the 7500 is a nice feature I occasionally use, but even if I went back to using a 5200, I’d prefer those controls over something just buttons and presets. (This is coming from a computer nerd.)  My view point is obviously not universal, as Vitamix offers more than one version of the 7500/Pro 300 that does have presets.

 

Should everyone go out and buy a blender this expensive and this nice? Absolutely not. I’m one of those people that falls into the category of regular blender user and I think it’s a wonderful kitchen appliance for people who will use it regularly.

When my family moved from Japan to America after the March 11th earthquake, we had to get rid of all our electrical appliances that wouldn’t work with American voltage, which included the blender my wife had gotten me as a gift years earlier.  She bought me a nice blender because I told her about my history of killing cheap ones making frozen drinks.  The one blender she had bought me in Japan survived more frozen drinks than all the blenders I had gone through in high school and college.

The satisfaction I derived from using a quality blender in Japan, contrasted with the frustrations of dealing with blenders jamming, breaking and leaving chunks pushed me to finally spending the money to buy a nice blender in the states. I was worried that I’d regret the decision, to the point that I started this blog to maximize the chances I wouldn’t, which is ironic, because years later, the reason the blog has seen the 50+ posts that it has is because it’s one of my favorite purchases.

My uncle has an impressive collection of high quality tools. His motto on quality products is: “You can cheap out on a tool, and regret the decision every time the tool breaks or isn’t up to a task. Or, you can spend the extra money on a quality tool, where you might feel some regret when you first pay for it, but every time you go to use that tool after that, you’ll be glad you have it.”

I think that sums it up pretty well.

 

If you are wondering whether the 7500 or 5200 is right for you, I recommend this post: Is the Vitamix 7500 worth the extra money?
Buying a Vitamix on a budget?  I talk about the refurbished option in this post:  How to get a Vita-Mix 7500 (for a great price!)
If you do decide to buy a Vitamix, I recommend buying direct from Vitamix.com.