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Once upon a time I controlled everything that my children ate. Every single meal was handmade from scratch with care.
My kids used to eat a four course breakfast every day. They’d have cereal in a bowl, a kiwi fruit or other high vitamin C level fruit, a slice of wholemeal toast with marmite or cheese, a glass of milk, and sometimes other dishes too – a bowl of Japanese rice, or a scrambled egg.
Now, my daughter still eats like this in the morning, because she is happy to organise her own food… but my son can often be found at 6.45am at the kitchen table, staring moodily into the middle distance whilst crunching on a single dry rice cake. Why? Because he likes rice cakes? Probably not. Probably just because they’re easy to get out of a packet and don’t require cooking, peeling, mixing or chopping.
Obviously, this would be a concern. I mean, he can’t face a whole day at school fuelled by one rice cake – an odd, nutritionally pointless substance which is basically just crunchy air – he’d never last till lunch time, and he’s thin as a rake already.
But I have a secret weapon. A super blender.
I’d been looking into getting one for some time, but I hadn’t realised how expensive they were.
About 3 years ago, a friend was describing how he had gone to visit a new Whole Foods store that had opened locally, and ended up spending nearly £550!! How on earth does one spend £550 on a grocery shop?? Although I’d been intending to visit Whole Foods myself, this information put me off for a few weeks.
When Hubby and I finally got around to checking it out, we were amazed by the atmosphere. Everything looked like it was made out of recyclable brown paper. The fruit and vegetables were impossibly organic-looking. There were little dishes of samples everywhere – chips and dips, sliced strawberries, granola, cubes of cheese. We approved.
However, only 30 feet from the entrance, we got snagged by a Vitamix demonstration. A Vitamix rep had set up a stall, and was going through his amazingly slick patter like a professional con artist. He showed us how this industrial grade blender could make flour, ice cream, hot soup, homous and nut butters. He showed us how ridiculously easy it was to clean. He amazed us with his explanation of how friction heated up the soup, how it was still raw and maintained all its nutrients. He poured the steaming soup into tiny cups and it was freaking delicious – squash, vegetables, spices, garlic and coconut milk – fragrant, aromatic, like a Thai curry.
We’d started off standing well back from the stall, to send a clear message that we weren’t going to fall for his tricks. We smiled in an amused but knowing way. Hubby once spent an uncomfortable year in sales – he was familiar with the tricks of the trade.
But the coup de grace was the ice cream. He kept going on about this ice cream. He said it was so easy and quick, it could be whipped up in 2 minutes after a meal, and would be instantly ready to eat. Huh?? What sorcery was this? He told us it contained no sugar, no lactose, no gluten – that it was still utterly decadent. All the while, his hands were busy, demonstrating how quickly you could wash the jug by blending hot water with washing up liquid in it.
He got out a tray of frozen bananas, strawberries, and pineapple, amongst other fruit. He even chucked in half a cabbage – said we wouldn’t notice, and the kids definitely wouldn’t. He blended all the ingredients until he was left with a smooth, creamy cold paste, which he decanted into more small paper cups.
Then - and this is the killer - he proclaimed he could offer us the deal of the century if we bought one that very day – but he didn’t hand out the ice cream; he just moved on up a level with his persuasive patter. There was quite a little crowd gathered around him now, and all our eyes were glued to the little cups of ice cream. It was all we could think about. He was talking about prices. I wanted to walk away – I never listen to prices – you’re hooked like a fish by the time prices are mentioned….but I was desperate to try the ice cream!
Apparently, if we bought a Vitamix there and then, he’d throw in an extra jug for free, and give us a recipe book crammed with fabulous recipes, including the ice cream recipe. This whole bundle for the perfectly reasonable price of £549.50.
All of a sudden, I realised how my friend spent £550 at Whole Foods.
Hubby and I were even looking at each other with that, “I will, if you will…” challenge in our eyes. Then my inner miser slapped me on the chops and told me to stop being stupid, and I shook off the Vitamix Man’s enchantment like a dog shakes its pelt after a swim.
We still tried the ice cream, and it was very good, but we managed to walk away from the stall without losing any money.
The seed was sown though. I went home and spent a long time online, researching blenders – looking for Vitamix substitutes and reading hundreds of reviews.
Eventually I found a blender that had excellent reviews and was half the price of the Vitamix (but still 5 times the price I wanted to pay), so I was delighted when I received this as a present from my family on my significant birthday. I thought it looked even better than the Vitamix - and, due to its odd-looking black lid that bears a strong resemblance to Walter White’s stingy brim pork pie fedora, I nicknamed it Heisenberg.
Some of the early experiments weren’t particularly successful. A notable fail was a repulsive broccoli soup – it didn’t matter what we did to it, we simply couldn’t make it edible. It was a khaki-green, sour gloop that smelled like farts – worthy of Shrek’s swamp.
However, we have become rather adept at throwing a smoothie together every morning. I don’t do recipes (I’m too lax and anarchic to be fettered by recipes), but the basic ingredients of a successful smoothie are: soy/almond/coconut milk, a splash of freshly squeezed fruit juice, a banana, any combination of frozen fruit, a tiny drop of vanilla essence, a spoonful of chia seeds (optional) and a spoonful of oats. The only rule with the fruit combinations is to avoid using green and red fruit at the same time – it results in a most unappetising brown colour!
For a special treat, I make a smoothie I’ve nicknamed The Black Forest Gateau Smoothie – Almond milk, juice, pineapple, banana, a heaped spoonful of raw cacao powder, oats, vanilla and frozen black cherries. My kids absolutely love this one.
Interestingly, when we were at a café the other day, my son asked for a chocolate milkshake, but when it came, he couldn’t even drink half of it. He said it was too sweet and artificial-tasting. Try my version. It has no refined sugar, but is so satisfying and delicious.
In summary, although my son ‘made’ himself the crappiest, laziest possible breakfast this morning, he DID also have kale, banana, pineapple, oats, mango, spinach, kiwi and almond milk - in smoothie form.
Thank goodness for the blender. It really is the only thing standing between him and rickets.