Happy (Late) Thanksgiving, and Blender Alternative Review(s)!

Happy (now extremely belated) Thanksgiving!  I hope it was truly a day for you to be thankful surrounded by family and friends.

We celebrated three Thanksgivings: one with the S family two weeks before, one with friends the day of, and one with the M family afterwards, and leftovers with the F side of the family in between!  We have so much to be thankful for, and it was a wonderful week (+) of thankfulness!

And then life got busy.  Because (1) Christmas.  Seriously.  (2) End of the semester.  Yikes.  (3) General busy-ness of life.  Life's hellos and goodbyes.  It certainly feels like Thanksgiving was much longer than a week and a half ago (think at least a month . . .).

And what have I managed to make?  Mac and cheese with leftover turkey for my at-school dinners.  Cranberry relish for Thanksgiving #3.  Aaaaand, yeah.  That.  I mixed up some homemade peppermint mocha creamer, because this is the one time of year I drink coffee regularly.

And some beef stew.  Note to self: never overfill a crockpot again.  I have a black crockpot heating element now.  Like for serious.

So what to write about?

Well, I have had this post idea under my belt for a while, so maybe it's finally time to pull it out.  I'm about to embark on my very first kitchen appliance review.  Just because.  How much have things changed since way back when I was a college student living in an on-campus apartment with only a unused crockpot to my name?

And I even have recipes to boot!

First of all, I'm pretty sure I've sung the praises of my stick blender before.  I have actually used it now for a recipe besides a smoothie!  I used it to make the squash sauce for my butternut squash lasagna at Halloween.  I feel like I've finally make it serve its actual purpose!

Meanwhile, I've made many, many numerous smoothies with it!  It really does make a wonderful, smooth smoothie.  Every once in a while, I get a chunk of frozen banana leftover at the bottom, but I can hardly blame the blender for that.

My favorite smoothie (now that there isn't fresh fruit at my disposal 24/7) is a simple banana smoothie made with frozen banana, cocoa powder, PB2 (for the protein kick!) and almond milk.  Easy peasy.  And filling enough to (mostly) hold me over till lunch!  Maybe with a small snack in there.  Because I've just never been good at drinking a meal.

And now for the completely unexpected part: the stick blender comes with a whisk attachment!  Now, realize I'm not talking about the new replacement for your mixer.  It's exactly what it says: a whisk.

That being said, I love having it when I just want to whip up some cream (or any similar task) and I don't feel like pulling out the giant Kitchenaid mixer.  Because I love my Kitchenaid, but seriously, all those dishes for a little whipped cream?
Also, there is a chopping attachment, but I haven't tried that.  I just haven't needed it.  It may have worked for my pesto, but that's why I have a food processor.  That one hasn't won me over yet.

Anyway, moral of the story: I love my stick blender.  It's up there on my list for best kitchen appliance of all time.

Now, onto my other blender-like appliance.  I have a Ninja Master Prep.  Until fairly recently, I had a simple 4 cup Cuisinart food processor, and I loved it . . . until I killed it.  I may have, um, well, overheated it in a major way while trying to make sunflower seed butter.  Not a mistake I will make again.

I decided to try something a little different, as the Ninja set I have is basically a small food processor, a larger food processor, and a blender.  All the bases share the same top mechanism, which saves on space.  I like having the mechanism on top, and I've found it makes the whole thing easier to clean.  I was skeptical at first, but it's grown on me.

Again, I haven't actually used the large food processor (I tend to just reach for the small one and make things in batches -- it's habit now).

But I have used the small one, and the blender.  I've used the small one to make peanut butter, and I actually think that it came out smoother than with my old food processor.  It took almost no time flat, and it worked really well.  No worries of overheating!  That was nice.

I also used it to make cranberry relish for Thanksgiving #3. I found that in order to get everything chopped and mixed, I had to let it get a little on the smooth side.  It wasn't a problem, but if you use your food processor to make chunky relishes or salsas, this one might not be your best bet.

It's perfect for pesto, though!

I used the blender for a smoothie right after it came, but immediately went back to my stick blender.  It wasn't nearly as smooth with the Ninja, and the Ninja blender is a lot more to clean than the stick blender.  Hey, that's important for someone without a dishwasher!

My success with the blender came in making almond milk!  The blender worked like a charm, and I got a lovely, smooth almond milk (that tasted a lot like actual almonds!) and a grainy almond byproduct that I dried in the oven (think low and slow) and have been eating in yogurt!

Having a spout on the blender was really nice for pouring out the milk when it was ready to be strained.

My only complaint/warning about the almond milk was that it took a long time and a lot of almonds for about 3 large glasses of milk.  The almonds actually have to soak in the fridge for at least a day, so it's not active time, but it's still thinking ahead time.

So here's the deal: Stick blender for smoothies and whipped cream, all the way.  Oh, and soups and sauces and stuff like that.

Ninja set for almond milk, pesto and nut butters!

And now, recipes to use said appliances!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Smoothie

1 1/2 frozen bananas (peeled and in chunks before they are frozen)
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tbsp. PB2 (powdered peanut butter)
almond milk

In a blender or measuring cup (for a stick blender), place the bananas, cocoa and PB2.  Add almond milk to taste (the less you add, the more like milkshake consistency your smoothie will be).

Blend until smooth.

Enjoy with a fun straw, if possible.

Maple Spiced Almond Milk with a Hint of Pumpkin
from Joy the Baker

2 cups raw whole almonds
4 cups filtered water
3-4 tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or fall spices of your liking -- I'm thinking cardamom next time!)
1 heaping tbsp. pumpkin puree

Rinse the almonds, then place in a bowl and cover with water.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 days (the longer, the creamier the milk).

Drain the almonds from the water, and rinse.

Place the almonds and the filtered water in a blender.  Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Strain this mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.  Press as much of the liquid as you can out of the almond meal.

Return the liquid to the blender and add the syrup, spices and pumpkin.  Blend until smooth again.

Milk lasts in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

To dry the almond meal, spread onto a baking sheet and bake at 200 degrees until dry to the touch.    Either leave it is, or grind in a spice grinder.


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