Archive for the ‘ Photos included ’ Category

Butternut Squash Soup (★★★★★)

I decided to wrap up what will probably be my busiest day of blender usage in 2014 with homemade soup for dinner.  I’ve made Acorn Squash Soup enough times over the last three years that I know how I like it, and I know what to expect, so when I asked my wife to pick up the ingredients we’d need for Acorn Squash soup, I was surprised when she came back with butternut squash instead.  She picked up butternut squash saying she thought it’d be interesting, and I’m glad she did.

I’d actually never prepared butternut squash before, so I found a great guide that helped me figure out how to prepare both the squash and the seeds.  I roasted the butternut squash as cubes, which gave me plenty of time to boil and then roast the seeds, which turned out much better than I expected.

This was going to be dinner for my family of four, so instead of making a double sized batch of soup, as I’ve done in the past, I decided it’d be interesting to make on batch in my new Blendtec Designer Series blender, and another in my Vitamix Professional Series 300. (The Pro 300 is basically the same as a 7500, a good explanation of the different models is here.)

Regarding the recipe, over the years, my soup recipe has gradually evolved from the original Acorn Squash Soup recipe into what I make today, and I recognize that my current version is based on my personal preferences, but if you’re a fan of richer soups and squash, I think you’ll really like this.

Butternut Squash Soup (★★★)
This recipe can be doubled, which allows you to use an entire squash when making it.  It works very well with Acorn Squash as well, and tremendously aided by quality milk, so for the best possible soup, make this with fresh, in-season squash and local farm milk.

1/2 butternut squash
1 large bouillion cubes (2 cups of broth worth of bouillon cubes)
2 cups of whole milk
1 teaspoons of maple syrup
pinch of nutmeg (to taste)
cinnamon stick pieces (to taste)
pinch of extra virgin, first cold pressed olive oil
a sliver of fresh ginger
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)

I prepared the butternut squash by cubing and roasting it, using the guide I linked to above.  I roasted the cubes for somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes at 400, during which time I was able to boil and then roast the squash seeds, and then prepare the blender with the rest of the ingredients above.

With everything else in the blender and ready for the squash, I take the hot squash cubes straight out of the oven and put them into the blender.  For the Blendtec Designer Series, I use the 90 second soup cycle, and for the Vitamix, I blend on 10 with the tamper for that same 90 seconds, both of which should be sufficient.

Taste.  Add nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon to taste and blend.  Then add salt and pepper to taste and blend.  May need to be heated further in a pot before serving.

One of the things I was very interested in as I made this was how the two blenders would handle the same soup.  I tried to set things up to be as equal as possible:

Preparing both blenders for Butternut Squash Soup

Preparing both blenders for Butternut Squash Soup

Adding equal amount of squash to both mixes

Adding equal amount of squash to both mixes

Blending the soup in both the Blendtec Design Series (left) and Vitamix (right)

Blending the soup in both the Blendtec Design Series (left) and Vitamix Pro 300 (right)

When both mixes were complete, I asked my wife to try them both.  She said the Vitamix tasted more fluffy, but I noticed that the Blendtec soup tasted warmer.  Wanting to warm the soup up just a tad more before serving, I decided to add the Vitamix batch to the Blendtec, which I didn’t anticipate to be a problem, because that’s how much I normally make in the Vitamix when I make squash soup these days.

Running both batches of soup through a second soup cycle in the Blendtec Designer Series

Running both batches of soup through a second soup cycle in the Blendtec Designer Series

Running the Blendtec through a second soup cycle, I began to smell an electric, or motor burning smell.  The Blendtec completed it’s entire cycle, but odor that was given off makes me think that the large amount of soup coupled with running the soup cycle twice in a short period of time (it’s the longest and highest speed of any of the presets) was taxing the Blendtec a bit more than I’d be comfortable to subject it to on a regular basis, based on the odor it was giving off.  It did heat the soup, and between the heat created by the blenders and the heat of the squash, the soup did not need any additional heating before being served.

The soup was delicious, and my wife commented that it has a less distinct flavor than that Acorn Squash Soup, and that it seems like it would appeal to a large group of people as a result.  It was very filling, and the next time I’m looking for a squash for soup, I’ll choose whatever acorn squash or butternut squash is the most in-season, as this recipe works very well with either!

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Fresh Oranges Applesauce (★☆☆☆☆)

We had friends over yesterday for breakfast, and they stayed for lunch. I told them to bring over whatever they wanted to blend up in the blender, and that breakfast would be green smoothies and waffles. I was looking forward to mixing things in both the my new Blendtec Designer Series and my tried and true Vitamix Professional Series 300. (The Pro 300 is basically the same as a 7500, a good explanation of the different models is here.)

One of the things that they brought was a four pound bag of Florida oranges that was being sold at the local supermarket as “Juicing Oranges”.  They’d picked up the oranges, thinking they might be good for mixing in the blender, but we didn’t blend them while they were over, and they ended up leaving them with us.  I figured, why not try to blend them?

Whole Juice is one of the six pre-programmed cycles on the Blendtec Designer Series, so I figured I’d use the Blendtec to make this.

Fresh Oranges Applesauce (★☆☆☆☆)
Not something I’d recommend as a good use of oranges, putting a bunch of oranges in any blender and expecting good orange juice is a bad idea.

4 lbs of oranges

Peel the oranges and remove as much of the pith as possible, as well as the seeds.   Put all the fruit in the blender and use the Whole Juice cycle (50 seconds) to blend everything.

I don’t know what I was expecting…  Maybe really, really pulpy orange juice?  Maybe really thick juice that would separate after a few hours in the fridge?  No, what I got can be reasonably accurately described as applesauce, made with oranges instead of apples.  Our first impression was that it wasn’t bad.  We assumed the juice would settle, but even several hours in the fridge caused no change in texture.  I put the mixture in a strainer as a last ditch attempt to save it, but ended up throwing almost all of it away.

Blending four pounds of peeled oranges in the Blendtec Designer Series

Blending four pounds of peeled oranges in the Blendtec Designer Series

Attempting to strain Fresh Orange Applesauce

Attempting to strain Fresh Orange Applesauce

So if anyone else was wondering why there aren’t recipes online for making orange juice in a Vitamix or Blendtec, now you know why!

Baby Kale, Peanut and Banana Green Smoothie (★★★☆☆)

We had friends over today for breakfast who stayed for lunch.  I told them to bring over whatever they wanted to blend up in the blender, and that breakfast would be green smoothies and waffles.   I was looking forward to mixing things in both the my new Blendtec Designer Series and my tried and true Vitamix Professional Series 300. (The Pro 300 is basically the same as a 7500, a good explanation of the different models is here.)

The first thing I made was whipped cream for the waffles.  Following that, I decided to make a green smoothie using baby kale, based on a recipe I received from a co-worker.  I am not a fan of kale, but I wanted to change that.  My coworker makes this green smoothie regularly in a Health Master her husband received as a gift using extra water and peanut butter and cinnamon powder instead of peanuts and cinnamon sticks, and leaving out the flax seeds.

I’ll go into more detail on how the two blenders matched up below, but here’s the recipe for anyone who’s interested:

Baby Kale, Peanut and Banana Green Smoothie (★★★☆☆)
The ingredients go well together, and the results is one of the most drinkable kale based green smoothies I have had.  I do not have a high degree of confidence in the ratios of the ingredients below, but the ingredients themselves work well together.

2 medium handfuls of baby kale
1 large banana
3-4 tablespoons of unsalted peanuts
cinnamon stick pieces (to taste)
2 tablespoons of flax seeds
ice and water (approximately 16oz, half ice, half water)

I used the smoothie button on the Blendtec, and used the tamper on speed 10 on the Vitamix Pro 300.  I started the Vitamix just after the Blendtec, turning it off just before the 40 second smoothie program ended.

The smoothie itself was a little better than I was expecting, but not as interesting to me as how the Blendtec would compare to the Vitamix.

I tried to make both sets of ingredients as equal as possible:

Getting ready to make Baby Kale, Peanut and Banana Green Smoothies in both blenders simultaneously

Getting ready to make Baby Kale, Peanut and Banana Green Smoothies in both blenders simultaneously

Adding ice to both blenders

Adding ice to both the Designer Series (left) and Professional Series 300 (right)

I broke out both the two “B” and two “V” cups that I made for blind taste testing the Banana Milk I made in my first side-by-side test of the two blenders, and served the green smoothie to my guests, and got two votes for the Vitamix with texture the only reason that either friend could articulate. I noticed that the Blendtec mix was slightly warmer, which is a trend I’m seeing, an issue that could be easily rectified in this recipe by using more ice and less water. Regardless, the difference between the blenders for this particular mix is small.

Physical Comparison: Vitamix Professional Series 300 vs. Blendtec Designer Series

I was holding off on using the Blendtec Designer Series I just got because I wanted to take some good comparison photos of it before I used it.  This post is going to attempt to detail what I see as the major physical similarities and differences between the Vitamix Professional Series 300 (as seen in this post, basically the same as the Vitamix 7500) and the Blendtec Designer Series.  These were the kind of details I would have been very happy to see back when I was shopping for a blender, so I dusted off my DSLR and combined my nerdy interest in blenders with my nerdy interest in photography in hopes that this post will be helpful for some people out there who are looking at these blenders.  (As a camera nerd, I made a conscious decision to take all photos SOOC, no post processing of any type has been done.)

Front and Top Views

The Blendtec Designer Series does a very good job of looking small and sleek. It is smaller than the Vitamix Pro 300, but looks smaller than it actually is. I do like the Blendtec touch panel, but I’m also a huge fan of the simplicity of the Vitamix design and ease of use.

Another thing I really like about the Vitamix is the physical power switch that kills the LED light, minimizes electricity usage when not in use and ensures the Blender won’t be accidently turned on. The Blendtec power button glows fairly brightly as long as it’s plugged in.

The front of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, both powered off.

The front of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, both powered off.

The front of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, both powered off.

The front of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, both powered on.

The top of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, both powered on.

The top of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, both powered on.

Back View

One benefit of the larger Vitamix base is that the power cord can be completely wound into the base of the blender or fully extended. The Blendtec has the benefit of a smaller profile, and the cord length should work for most home users, but I definitely appreciated the ability to have a lengthen or shorten the power cord with the Vitamix by winding the excess cable into a guide in the bottom of the blender body.

The back of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, showing power cord lengths.

The back of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, showing power cord lengths.

The back of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, with power cords stored/tied.

The back of the Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series, with power cords stored/tied.

Container Blades

One thing that surprised me is how different the blades are. The first physical difference that jumped out when I was looking at these blenders is that the socket connecting the container to the blender body on the Vitamix is much larger than the Blendtec, but I doubt that has a major impact in how either blender performs. The blades, however, are a different story.

The Vitamix family of containers uses a four pronged blade that reminds me of a four-pointed shuriken with two of the four blades pointed up. And blades is the right term, as they are sharp enough to cut.

The Blendtec WildSide Jar and Twister Jar blades vary slightly from each other, the WildSide being larger, but they both have a two blade design. Don’t let the word blade fool you into assuming that they are sharp. They taper on the side of the blade that impacts food, but they are nowhere near as sharp as the Vitamix blades, which I am sure is intentional.

I expect the very different blade designs to have pros and cons for each blender, but don’t yet have enough experience with the Blendtec to know what those are.

The Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series sport very different blade designs.

The Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series sport very different blade designs.

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Containers

The Vitamix container includes measurements up to 64 oz (I’ve actually made double sized batches of hummus before, so it’s blended over 64 oz of hummus on more than one occassion).  The Blendtec book states that WildSide Jar has a volume of 90 fl oz, but for whatever reason only has measurements up to 36 fl oz.  The Blendtec Twister Jar has measurement lines up to 16 oz.  I’m almost certain the WildSide jar would be able to handle 48 oz of almost anything (if not everything) that I’d make in the Vitamix, so I took photos with 48 oz and 12 oz of water in each to show the various sizes.

Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series containers with 48oz of water.

Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series containers with 48oz of water.

Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series with 48oz of water.

Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series with 48oz of water.

Vitamix Compact 64oz container, Blendtec WildSide Jar and Twister Jar with 12oz of water.

Vitamix Compact 64oz container, Blendtec WildSide Jar and Twister Jar with 12oz of water.

Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series and Twister Jar with 12oz of water.

Vitamix Professional Series 300 and Blendtec Designer Series and Twister Jar with 12oz of water.

Cookbooks

Both the Vitamix cookbooks are larger and thicker at first glance, so if you’re rating them based on how impressive they look on a bookshelf, the Vitamix books win that comparison. I’ve always been a fan of the Whole Foods book that came with the
5200 because of it’s ability to turn the cover into a stand and easily reference a recipe while using the blender.  The Professional Series 300 comes with a nice large hardcover book, but I’m more interested in the contents than anything else, so I’m looking forward to digging into the Fresh Blends book that comes with the Blendtec Designer Series, which apparently has more than 200 recipes.

The cookbooks that come with (from left to right) the Vitamix Professional Series 300, Vitamix 5200, Blendtec Twister Jar (top) and Designer Series (bottom). (101 Blender Drinks [top] also included for scale)

The cookbooks that come with (from left to right) the Vitamix Professional Series 300, Vitamix 5200, Twister Jar (top) and Designer Series (bottom). (101 Blender Drinks [top] also included for scale)

Another view of cookbooks that come with the Vitamix Professional Series 300, Vitamix 5200, Twister Jar (top) and Blendtec Designer Series (bottom).

Another view of cookbooks that come with the Vitamix Professional Series 300, Vitamix 5200, Twister Jar (top) and Blendtec Designer Series (bottom).

Initial Conclusions

Both blenders are impressive beasts.  I’ve used my Vitamix Pro 300 so much that even my second blender container (I have two) is clouded, and the blender is what I’m used to.  The Blendtec is sleek and shiny, especially in these photos, as I waited until after I’d taken these photos to first use it.  Any talk about which is better based on small differences in size, cord length, the inclusion of an on/off switch or a cookbook seems like it would be meaningless for most people, as the real question is:  How do they each perform?

I’m thrilled with my Vitamix, but as I dig though my reasons in that old post, I realize I don’t know enough to know how it compares to the Blendtec yet.  In fact, I’m very hopeful that I’ll find that each blender has it’s strengths and that there will be things that the Blendtec does better.  Looking at the Fresh Blends book, it seems that the Blendtec may have more of a focus on dry grains than the Vitamix.  The Vitamix does have a dry grains container, but I’ve said before that I don’t do enough with dry grains to justify buying a separate container.  Maybe that’s a chicken and the egg issue, and the Blendtec could send me down that road.

Similarly, the Twister Jar is something I’m very much looking forward to using.  I’ve said before that one of the few disadvantages that the Vitamix 7500 and Pro 300 have compared to the 5200 is that the wider container base means that they are not as well suited for very small batches.  While Vitamix does offer a 32oz container, I personally didn’t think it was something I needed, so I’ve made due with the larger container.  I can certainly see the Twister Jar being very good for dips, sauces, baby food and other recipes that are made in very small batches.

I’d love to be able to give a definitive answer on which blender would be good for what kind of person, but I don’t know yet.  Tonight we had pasta, and I wanted to turn some parmesan into parmesan powder, a great use for the Vitamix that I’ve written about before.  I figured I’d try the Twister Jar, thinking that the twister lid might help me mix it more evenly.  The slice of Parmigiano-Reggiano that would easily hit the blades in the Vitamix was long enough that it became stuck in the container, sideways and above the blades, and then mixed unevenly before over-mixing into hot and soft clumps.  I later found a recipe in the Fresh Blends book specifically for mixing Parmesan Cheese, so I’m sure the Blendtec can create better powdered Parmesan in the hands of a more competent user than what I made today, but I clearly need learn some things from the Fresh Blends book and I probably need to learn some other things the hard way as well.

If you’re in the market for a blender, it’s worth pointing out that, similar to the Vitamix refurbished options I’ve written about, Blendtec has a Recertified Blender option.

Please do let me know any question or requests you might have. I’ll learn more about the pros and cons of each blender as this year goes on, and I’d love to share feedback that will helpful to others.

Happy Birthday to me!

So what do you get as a birthday present for someone who loves powerful blenders and has a blender blog?  Apparently you get them a Blendtec blender!

Tomorrow is my birthday, and I received a box yesterday evening with a Blendtec Designer Series and Twister Jar!  Here’s what was in the box:

The boxes and contents of the Blendtec Designer Series and Twister Jar I received yesterday.

The boxes and contents of the Blendtec Designer Series and Twister Jar I received yesterday.

Now, I do already have a Vitamix 7500, and if it weren’t for this blog, I don’t know that I’d want a second blender, nor do I think anyone would have thought to give me another blender, but I was actually really excited to get this!  As I detailed in a blog post from 2011, Blendtec was the other option I was looking at way back when I bought my first Vitamix.

I’ve been in Japan for the last month, which is the reason for the lack of updates, and the whole family is still jet-lagged.  As soon as my sleeping cycle is back to normal, I will gladly start with a basic comparison of the 7500 and the Designer Series.

My Vitamix 7500 and Blendtec Designer Series side-by-side on my kitchen counter.

My Vitamix 7500 and Blendtec Designer Series side-by-side on my kitchen counter.

For now, I’m very happy to hear any requests people might have of things they’d like to see or hear about the Blendtec blender.  My next post will likely be a comparison of the obvious physical differences and similarities, but after that, I’d very much like to put the Blendtec through it’s paces, and try the two blenders on the same recipes to see where their strengths and weaknesses are!  If you have any requests, let me know in the comments!

Cinnamon Sticks, Granulated Sugar, Roasted Soybeans and Parmesan Cheese

I still need to share my wife’s corn soup recipe that makes using the blender, but I’d have to actually get the recipe from her before I can share it, so I thought I’d share a few uses I’ve had for my Vitamix lately aren’t full blown recipes:

Powdered Parmesan

Good, aged Parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano) cheese is one the most expensive ingredients that I keep stocked in our home.  Sam’s has reasonable prices on 24 month Parmesan, and it’s probably a pretty big part of why we keep our membership.  Back when my wife and I were dating in Japan, we went to a nice restaurant for dinner and were wowed by their amazingly simple, but delicious appetizer:  They served hot, fresh bread rolls, with first cold pressed extra virgin oil in a plate along with a bowl of powdered parmesan cheese.  You tear off a piece of bread, dip in into the plate of oil and then use the oil to grab some of the powdered parmesan.  It’s simple, but it’s amazing, and the Vitamix does a great job of turning Parmesan into a fine powder so we can recreate this at home.

Kinako Powder

Kinako powder, which is used in Japanese cooking, and which I especially like to have with fresh homemade toasted mochi, is basically just finally ground roasted soybeans.  Using the Vitamix to blend roasted soybeans is a great way to make homemade kinako powder.

Cinnamon and Sugar

It was apple picking season recently, and we went out and picked a lot of different apples from a local orchard.  Not knowing what to do with them all, I googled apple chips, thinking that was something we might be able to make at home, and I’m glad I did.  They were amazing, and I spent most of the next day making multiple trays at a time.

To make apple chips, heat your oven to 200F, and slice apples as thinly as you possibly can.  I broke out our meat slicer and used it to create translucent slices that worked very well.  Place the apple slices on parchment paper and sprinkle them with a dusting of cinnamon and sugar.  For the cinnamon and sugar, I threw several cinnamon sticks and a small amount of sugar into the Vitamix and turned it all into a fine powder.

Once you have your sheets filled with apples, lay the parchment paper on a tray in the oven and wait 30-45 minutes, then manually flip them over to the other side.  Do that again in another 30 minutes, and keep an eye on them to completely dry without burning.  I found that thin slices cooked faster than the two hours I saw quoted online in most recipes.

For the curious, here’s a photo of the first batch on parchment paper, followed by a photo of the chips in a bowl and my daughter picking one of the apples that turned into apple chips.

The first batch of apple chips, still on parchment paper

The first batch of apple chips, still on parchment paper

The first batch of apple chips in a bowl

The first batch of apple chips in a bowl

My daughter, picking an apple

My daughter picking an apple that we later turned into apple chips

Not much in the way of recipes in this post, but hopefully a few more fun ways to use a Vitamix that people might not have thought of.

New Blender Container Arrived

New and Old Blender Container

The new blender container, next to the old one, which has seen it’s fair share of use.

My wife and I couldn’t believe how different the new blender container looked.  It’s the same exact container, but my current one is so worn that it looks like a different part!

Very happy for the blender to be back in business.  My wife blended up some tasty corn soup with it and I’ll start punishing the new container with frozen drinks and the like very soon.

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