Thermomix kitchen robot can replace all your small appliances

If I said one device could replace nearly every kitchen appliance you own, you’d probably think I was starting a late-night infomercial. But an appliance I’ve discovered may actually be able to deliver on that promise. It’s called a Thermomix, and though it’s very popular in Australia and Europe, it’s virtually unknown in Canada and the US. Continue reading “Thermomix kitchen robot can replace all your small appliances”

Testing the Vitamix: is it worth the hype?

vitamix s55 I’ve heard the hype about Vitamix, mainly from people well enshrined int the cult of the uber-powerful blender. I haven’t believed it, to be honest.  I own a “regular” blender and it works just fine, thanks. Well, at least I thought it did.  Until the Vitamix arrived.

The Vitamix S55

The first tests I did involved smoothies.  Easy, right? One blender will do the same job as another, right?  Oh, how wrong I was.

The travel cup container.
The travel cup container.

I like using frozen fruit and fresh kale in my smoothies, however my blender will only chop the hearty greens so well.  Inevitably I’m choking down tiny kale fibers, or having them get jammed in the straw. Oh, and there’s usually some giant pieces of frozen fruit left in the bottom too.

Not with the Vitamix.  This blender is able to absolutely liquefy its contents, usually on just one blending cycle. That means no bits of kale, and no frozen chunks.

The Smoothie Test Comparison

I tried a test using both my old blender and the Vitamix where I added the same amount of ingredients to each machine, and ran them both for the same length of time (watch my YouTube video of the test results).

While the old blender did chop the fruit and frozen veggies, the overall texture was grainy, and there were still several medium sized chunks of fruit left in the drink. There was definitely more chewing to be done in this smoothie. In the Vitamix S55, there were a couple much smaller frozen chunks left, but the overall texture of the smoothie was silky; you’d never know there was any fruit, seeds or greens in the drink. In this test, I ran the old blender on its highest setting, and the Vitamix on its lowest smoothie program, but in daily use my preference when blending frozen fruit is to use the higher smoothie setting.

My husband makes himself a smoothie each morning since we got the Vitamix, and he likes to add whole raw beets, apple or other vegetables. The Vitamix chops them so finely, you absolutely can’t tell there’s whole vegetables (skin and all) in the drink. And fresh beets turn the smoothies a gorgeous raspberry red colour!

Making Almond Milk in the Vitamix

My next test was almond milk, to be used in the aforementioned smoothies as protein.  The almonds are soaked in water for several hours or overnight, then you just dump the whole mixture in the blender and hit start. In no time you have smooth, creamy almond milk.  There’s no way my old blender could do that.

Vitamix Makes Roasted Vegetable Dip

A third test was to make dip.  I used a recipe from the included Vitamix recipe book with roasted cauliflower, yogurt and spices. The Vitamix pulverized the vegetables into a smooth dip, and there was no way to tell it was vegetable based. The Vitamix could be the answer for you if your kids won’t eat vegetables, since you can hide them amazingly well!

Testing: from smoothies and dips to nut butters

A very sharp blade purees food easily
A very sharp blade purees food easily

Test number four involved peanut butter. I soaked peanuts for a few hours, and drained them before dumping the nuts into the Vitamix. A bit of oil, some honey and eventually some confectioners sugar, and I had a thick paste that tasted great, but was nowhere near the smooth and whipped consistency of store-bought peanut butter. it’s the kind of peanut butter I’ll make fresh for my dog (who cares less about consistency), or that I’ll use in recipes or smoothies.  I may also spend some more time looking for a different recipe to see if I get a different result. (Vitamix helpfully tweeted me some alternate nut butter recipes too!)

About the Vitamix S55

Smart settings, and two containers

The S55 “offers the ease and convenience of four pre-programmed settings in a personal blending size, taking the guesswork out of processing our most popular recipes. The Variable Speed Control lets you fine-tune every texture—from smooth purées to chunky salsas—and everything in between,” says Vitamix..The containers, blade base, lids, and seals are all (mercifully) top rack dishwasher-safe, The S-Series also has two container sizes—a 20-ounce/0.6-L that becomes an instant travel cup with flip-top lid and a 40-ounce/1.2-L for small batches of soups, sauces, frozen desserts, and more. That was extremely handy for a 2-adult household.

The Verdict

So far, I’m quite impressed with this machine. The question remains, will I use it regularly enough to justify its hefty price tag? So far, my husband has unexpectedly appropriated it for a morning veggie juice every day, so that alone may be worth it. I’ve had the Vitamix about a month now and use it about 3-4 times a week myself.

I do find it handy for making other foods, like the dips, though the food processor I own already has been working great for that.

One thing that’s worth noting is that this machine is LOUD.  So very very loud.  While a blender is bound to make noise, this one sounds like a small jet engine in my kitchen. For the price of this machine, some more insulation, baffling or a quieter motor would be a redesign I’d like to see in future models.

Check out the Vitamix S55 from Vitamix’s Canadian website.

Do you have thoughts about the Vitamix, or a test I should do? Let me know in comments.

Finished peanut butter.
Finished peanut butter.
Kale and fruit smoothie
Kale and fruit smoothie

My Top 10 Tech Gadgets of the Year

I’ve had the great fortune to test some of the best and most-coveted tech gadgets this year. I’ve reviewed a lot of devices, but only these make my top 10 list for 2015.  My criteria? They have to be easy to use, perform as promised – or better – than the companies advertise, they have to be useful, practical, and well made. It has to be something I’d actually buy for myself, and there’s also bonus points for coolness.

Here’s the list, in order.

10. Belkin Mixit Charging Cables

IMG_7398With the battery life of many phones in a sad state, it’s imperative to carry extra cables or a portable battery pack. But they can be heavy, or clunky, or get tangled up inside your bag.

Belkin has come up with a WAY better option that I think is going to be a huge hit.  There are three smart additions to their MIXIT line of cables.

Made from natural leather, the MIXIT Lightning to USB Tassel is a chic handbag charm that hides a premium metallic charging cable in its tassels. Belkin says, “its fringe design takes a purse from bleak to chic, keeps the cable tidy and prevents it from getting tangled.” I also love the chic lobster clip that makes it easy to attach and swap it from bag to bag. Read the full review HERE.

9. Vitamix Blender

IMG_6963I like using frozen fruit and fresh kale in my smoothies, however my blender will only chop the hearty greens so well.  Inevitably I’m choking down tiny kale fibers, or having them get jammed in the straw. Oh, and there’s usually some giant pieces of frozen fruit left in the bottom too.

Not with the Vitamix.  This blender is able to absolutely liquefy its contents, usually on just one blending cycle. That means no bits of kale, and no frozen chunks. I was sceptical at first, but I can attest the Vitamix is on another level when it comes to blending. Full Review HERE.

8. Biolite Campstove

rsz_biolite_recropThe BioLite CampStove was the company’s first production piece. The concept is simple and genius at the same time: the CampStove creates a smokeless campfire that can cook meals and boil water in minutes. Setup is easy, fuel is free, and the company says, “flames are hyperefficient with performance on par with white gas stoves.” Then at the same time, the stove’s heat generates usable electricity for charging LED lights, mobile phones, and other personal devices. The stove’s USB connector will charge up most devices, and every twenty minutes of charging with a strong fire gives you about an hour of talk time on most smartphones. Probably more than you need out in the bush! The stove can also boil a litre of water in about 5 minutes in the small, Thermos-sized kit. I tested this gadget on a summer camping trip and it was compact, easy to use, produced a lot of heat, and gave me juice on the go. It’s a must-have for the serious camper. I love Biolite’s NanoGrid light kit a lot too. Read about both HERE.

7. Phonesuit charging case

phonesuitAre you the type who always runs out of juice on your device? The Phonesuit Elite battery case will keep you going all day long.  On its own, it protects, then when you need the extra hit of power, you just turn it on, and it gives you an additional 120% charge. The beauty of these cases are they recharge in 2 hours, and are quite slim, considering all the power it packs.  I liked these cases because they’re really durable, they recharge quickly, and the deliver that extra power punch quickly. Read how to get one, and about some other great case options HERE.

6. MyFox Security Camera

myfoxA small oddly-shaped camera, but it works like a dream.  A beautiful HD video picture, and set up is super easy. With the free app downloaded, I was able to set up the account in no time, and the camera was fully operational in about five minutes.The MyFox camera is without a doubt the easiest camera with the best video quality for your home secutity dollar. Read the full review HERE.

5. Fujifilm Instax Share Photo Printer

IMG_2828Wondering what to do with all the digital photos that sit on your device for years and years?  Start printing the best ones!
The new Fujifilm Instax Share printer is truly pocket sized, but it operates basically as you might remember a Polaroid camera operating; it spits out a small photo instantly that takes a couple minutes to fully develop. The result is retro-cool prints in an instant. The printer is easy to operate, and makes great quality prints.
Read more about the Instax printer HERE.

4. Felony Case

IMG_0380I only picked two cases as tops this year, and this is one of them. These plastic shell cases from Felony Case are definite winners for most eye-catching.  The 3-D raised texture on the  Kaleidoscope case is stunning, but the softness of the design means it’s comfortable to hold, despite looking menacingly like a torture device. In gold, rose gold, black and white, these cases are stunning accessories. Not to mention the case is barely a millimeter thick, so it adds absolutely zero bulk to your device.  While the business-types have been coveting the Moshi cases and the hipster are after Fuz, the fashionistas all want my Felony Case!  Check out the full write-up on Felony Case, as well as som other great options HERE.

3. Osram Lightify Flex

IMG_6431I’m sure under counter lighting is going to be a hugely popular use for this product, but you could see getting really creative with it too: lighting around a mirror, a headboard, under a glass table top, or stone bar. There are endless possibilities because this lighting is ultra thin and completely bendable. The Flex kit is super easy to install, and gives you the option of turning the lights different colours. I absolutely love changing the look and mood of the room with coloured light, and Flex makes it easy and chic. Learn about the Flex kit HERE.

2. Qwerkywriter Bluetooth Keyboard

QWERKY111Qwerkywriter is a solid aluminum metal (but not heavy!) keyboard that connects wirelessly via Bluetooth to iPhones, iPads, iMacs, MacPros, Macbooks, Android Tablets Devices, Windows Tablets, and more. It also has a functional carriage return bar that works as an ENTER key.
I absolutely love the feel of the industrial strength mechanical switches that give the device a unique clacky feel and sound. Punching typewriter keys requires just a touch more force than a younger generation will be familiar with, but those old enough to appreciate Mr Dressup reruns will love the stress relief properties.
Read all about Qwerkywriter on my blog HERE.

1. Ring Video Doorbell

IMG_4769It’s a simple gadget that’s infinitely useful. Ring is a video doorbell that lets you respond to visitors remotely via your smartphone from anywhere.  Got a package being delivered and you’re not home? Use Ring to answer the delivery driver’s call and instruct him to leave the package with a neighbour.  Annoying salesperson? Know before you open the door and get stuck in conversation. Ring is ultra-easy to use and get set up and has a sharp HD camera and high quality 2-way voice interaction. Added motion-detection alerts can also keep you safe from people lurking around or casing your place. I have Ring at my house and love it.
Read the full review HERE.

Have you got a gadget you think deserves top billing? Is there a gadget I should look at for next year’s list? Let me know in comments, below.

 

 

 

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Review: Kenwood Triblade Hand Blender kit