How to choose the right blender for smoothies

A smoothie requires a blender that has sufficient power to blend ice cubes and frozen fruit. Blenders come in various capacities and power capabilities and with an array of preset or manual blending settings. Choose the right blender for making smoothies.

About Blenders
Blenders come in models that range from 200 to 1200 watts. You can often blend ice with the lowest wattage, but the lower the power, the harder the blender works, and that eventually shortens its expected life.

Whether a low-power blender works for you depends on how often you use the blender and how long you blend.

If you plan to make a smoothie several times a week, buying a blender with a minimum of 600 watts is strongly recommended. Before you buy, confirm that your selection can indeed blend ice. Not all can.

You don't have to spend a lot of money on a blender. The price depends on whether you plan to use this counter appliance for other food prep or you just want one for making smoothies. If you're interested in buying a personal blender that is suitable for making smoothies, the Hamilton Beach personal blender is a good affordable choice.

If you are planning on doing with your blender than making smoothies, the Nutri Ninja Blending System with Auto-iQ, Smooth Boost and Extraction is a countertop model that offers terrific value, and you can blend a nutritional beverage with it too. The preset settings on the blender take the guesswork out of blending.

Making Smoothies

Making a smoothie can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, and it's up to you if you want to make a healthy smoothie or not. Although you'll find several brands of packaged smoothie mixes in the marketplace, you don't need a mix to make a tasty refreshing beverage.

Prepackaged smoothie mixes include additives that you might not want in your frozen beverage.

Making your own from a few ingredients allows you to tailor it to your preferences and within the boundaries of your specific dietary regimen. If you are trying to cut down on sugar, making your own is the best option. You'll soon realize that the natural taste of fruit without added sugar is awesome.

Super-Simple Banana Smoothie Recipe
Here is a simple smoothie with limited ingredients, yet it's totally refreshing and healthy. Plus, you can add more fruit to it if you wish. Remember, you're in control of this smoothie.

To make a personal smoothie in your blender jar or cup, add the following essential ingredients in this order (it will blend more easily):

4 to 6 ounces of milk, almond milk or another dairy substitute
One ripe banana cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon of vanilla
A handful of small ice cubes
Optional: Add one or two strawberries, raspberries or other fruit if you want to vary the taste. It doesn't take much fruit to add more flavor and color. The banana is essential is you want the smoothie to be creamy. You can also add a small amount of flax or chia seeds without affecting the end result. You can also add a little yogurt.

Blend or pulse to ​reach the desired consistency. How long to blend depends on whether you prefer to have lots of ice shards in the smoothie or not.

Pour the mixture into a glass or travel mug and add a straw. A personal blender cup saves on cleanup because you can enjoy the smoothie right from the small blending jar. Making for two or more? Just double or triple the ingredients into a regular-size blender jar and enjoy.

Electric Pressure Cookers

It's time to reconsider the pressure cooker. Sales are up more than 25 percent in the past 12 months, according to the market research firm NPD Group. And websites devoted to pressure cooking are another indication that these cookers are gaining a new audience, which is why Consumer Reports bought several models to test.

"One of the main draws is faster meal preparation," says Bernie Deitrick, who conducted our pressure cooker tests. "But the end result is another good reason to use a pressure cooker."

No fancy-schmancy gadget, a pressure cooker is a metal pot with a tight-fitting lid that seals. When liquids inside the pot heat up, steam is trapped, creating pressure. This results in higher cooking temperatures and faster cooking.

Earlier versions had a reputation for exploding (these cookers create intense internal pressure). Today's models have safety mechanisms that make it less likely you'll ever have to scrape stew off the ceiling. But as always, follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Lab Tested for Your Home
We bought five 6-quart pressure cookers, both stovetop and electric, from popular brands such as Cuisinart, Fagor, and Fissler, along with an inexpensive cooker from Philippe Richard. Products boasting the As-Seen-on-TV label are widely available, so we also tested the Power Pressure Cooker XL.

Testers headed to our kitchen lab, cooking staples such as brown rice, black beans, and chicken thighs. The food consistently turned out tender and delicious, and was ready considerable faster than when prepared by more conventional methods. Dried beans that might require at least 2 hours on the stovetop or 12 in a slow cooker (after a 12-hour soak) were ready in an hour.