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The Best Blenders — for your buck

Versatile, high-powered blenders are becoming a new kitchen staple

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A quick glance at Pinterest reveals many innovative recipes using blenders: kale smoothies, gazpacho, vegan cashew cream sauce. No longer limited to the occasional frozen margarita, high-powered blenders have become everyday cooking staples.

  The Vitamix is a multipurpose appliance with a 2.0 horsepower motor (the same type of motor used in lawnmowers). Though it's technically strong enough to pulverize a rake's wooden handle, the blender is designed for heating, chopping, pulverizing, pulsing and self-cleaning. It can make juices, milks, nut butters, dips, soups, frozen desserts, dressings, batters, flours, purees and dough. The engineering of the motor and blade allows the machine to grind coffee beans, pulverize peanuts into peanut butter and reduce dry whole grains to flours. The blade's friction can heat ingredients to make piping hot soups and beverages.

  There are three series of Vitamix blenders: personal, classic and next generation, which have different accessories. Differentiators include the base and container sizes, batch capacity, program settings, portability and color options.

  A spokeswoman for Vitamix recommends the S30 model for people who eat meals on the go. The S30 comes with a container that turns into a travel cup. Feeding a large family may require the Professional Series 750, which offers a larger capacity and five pre-programmed settings.

  Vitamix blenders range from $399 to $636, and the company sells reconditioned machines that cost less. The reconditioned machines have been returned from customers or used in demonstrations. Vitamix sterilizes the blade, inspects the motor, gives the blender a new container and repackages it for sale. Reconditioned blenders have a five-year warranty while new machines have a seven-year warranty. Vitamix blenders are sold at Williams-Sonoma (Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 504-828-3769; www.williams-sonoma.com).

  Priced at $100, the Magic Bullet blender offers a lower-cost option. The cute, compact blender gets its name from its quick performance and cone-shaped container. Patti Constantin from Patti Constantin Designs in Catering (131 Nursery Ave., Metairie, 504-913-6866) uses her Magic Bullet to make a green smoothie every morning.

  The container's bullet design keeps food particles rotating to the center, where the blade is located. The batch size is best for serving one or two people. The Bullet is a good size for making a sauce but impractical for making a soup for four or more. Benefits of the Bullet are that it's quick (blending time is ten seconds or less) and affordable, though it does not have the pulverizing power of the Vitamix.

  Constantin is satisfied with her Magic Bullet, but she says she is not hard to please. "I'm a health nut; it doesn't bother me if my smoothie is not sweet or has kale chunks in it," she says, "I'll drink it anyway."

  The Magic Bullet is sold at Costco (3900 Dublin St., 504-484-5220; www.costco.com). Regardless of the model consumers choose, Constantin recommends they get creative with their blenders.

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