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Blending is a cooking term that refers to combing two or more ingredients. You can blend ingredients by hand, which is easy enough when you're working with liquids, powders, and crumbs or small slices. But when you need to blend any ingredients with a solid -- or more than one solid -- you should use a blender. Depending on what you're trying to make, you may be able to use an electric mixer. Here's an easy way to figure out which appliance is best. If you're making a smoothie recipe, or a reci…

e for something to eat with a straw, use your blender. If you need a spoon, then use a mixer. Keep in mind, though, a lot of newer mixing appliances have various settings for blending, they can be used as a food processor and for chopping fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

Blender Recipes

If healthy smoothies are the only recipes that come to mind when you think of blending then you're not getting the most out of your versatile kitchen gadget. Here are just a few of the healthy foods your blender is capable of helping with.

Pancakes - The only thing you need to do when making pancakes is blend two or more ingredients. Even if you're making pancake batter by scratch, all of the ingredients range from soft to powder to liquid. If you're making a batch of pancakes with bits of fruit, like ripe banana pieces, or chocolate chips, just stir these ingredients in by hand at the end.

Waffles - Like with pancake batter, this is an easy recipe to make using a blender. Mix in fresh fruit pieces by hand after all the other ingredients are blended.

Pasta sauce - There's no reason why you can't blend ingredients for a tomato marinara or creamy Alfredo sauce in the mixer

Condiments - You save a lot of time blending ingredients to use on salads and sandwiches

Milkshakes - Milkshakes are like smoothies but they contain a lot more calories. Since it takes a lot of elbow grease to blend ice cream by hand with other ingredients, just use your mixer.

Nut butter - If your blender is pretty new, it should have all the functions you need to chop nuts and then puree them into a smooth or chunky peanut butter or almond butter paste. Blend in some honey for a bit of sweetness.

Dietary Supplements

The most popular kind of dietary supplement is the protein shake. Protein shakes are made by blending healthy ingredients that are high in protein with flavoring. Protein shakes can be smooth or contain bits of oats or fruit. Nutritional supplement shakes are good for you if you're trying to increase your protein intake. If you work out to build muscle, your body needs extra protein. If you want to lose weight, added protein in your diet could reduce your appetite, which can lead to lowing your calorie intake. When an athlete is recovering from an injury, supplemental protein might speed up the healing process. And for vegans, vegetarians, and anyone else who doesn't eat protein that comes from animals, a protein supplement can help them maintain good health.

Drink Recipes

This refreshing drink recipe can be used to make a healthy smoothie for between-meal or nighttime snacking. By adding a few scoops of protein powder, it'll have the ingredients needed to help you put on muscle, lose weight, or get some nutrients that you're not getting from your diet.

Veggie Juice Recipes

We'd never suggest drinking juice in lieu of eating your veggies, we don't care how much kale and spinach is in there. That's just not the best way to get your recommended daily allowance of dark leafy greens. But it's not a bad way get more vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium in your diet.

Fiber Friendly Spinach and Berry Juice

Puree these ingredients: frozen blueberries, a banana, 1 cup of spinach, 1/3 cup Greek yogurt, 1 to 2 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon ground flax seed. Also, add 2/3 cup of liquid. Choose from one of these: 1% or 2% milk, almond milk, soy, rice, or coconut milk.

Vitamin Bonanza Apple and Carrot Juice

Make a single juicy serving by blending one or two large carrots, a medium apple, one or two large celery stalks, 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup apple juice.

Blender Soup Recipes

What's so great about blender soup recipes is that they typically have just a few ingredients and because you make it in a single batch -- unlike soups with meat that you have to make separately -- they heat up in no time. Choose the blender setting based on whether you're in the mood for a silky-smooth soup that you can sip from a mug, or a thick and creamy soup with chunks of soft veggies. All of these soups are perfect for folks who don't eat meat or dairy.

Acorn Squash Soup

Roast squash for one hour in the oven. Then put all the ingredients in the blender. First blend at the lowest speed. Depending on whether you want a thick, chunky soup or a one that's smooth and silky, finish blending on the highest speed, or just go halfway to the middle setting. If you have a blender with soup settings, choose from those to get the desired consistency. Then simmer on the stove over medium-high heat.

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