Bring Out the Blender! It's Not Just a Margarita Machine

I know that several of my foodie friends are expanding their horizons in the kitchen, which is wonderful!  Many of them even seek my advice on which kitchen gadgets to get, and how they can use them, even better!  Per the suggestion of my twitter buddy @vampora, she requested I discuss the versatility of the mighty blender.  It's more than just a frozen margarita machine, or smoothie maker - it can create an array of appetizing foods.  Read on for a few examples of what your new kitchen toy is capable of:

Pesto Sauce:  We all know and love the herby, garlicky nutty flavor of pesto.  From pasta, to pizza, chicken, and more, you can use this delicious sauce in a variety of dishes.  The best part is that it can be done in your blender!  Here's a quick and easy recipe:

1 and 1/2 cups packed Basil leaves (doesn't have to be tightly packed)
2 cloves fresh Garlic
1/2 Pine Nuts or Walnuts
1/2 grated Parmesan Cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of Black Pepper

Start by grinding all ingredients except the olive oil in the blender until pasty.  Through the little funnel piece in the middle of the lid, slowly pour olive oil and blend until pureed.  You'll have a little course texture but that's fine, it's more rustic that way.

Aioli Sauce:  Or more simply, a French style garlicky mayo, great to serve with seafood and veggies.  If you know how mayo is made, this recipe should be pretty darn easy.  If not, no worries, it's still simple enough:

- about 2-3 cloves garlic (you can use fresh or roasted)
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup olive oil (you can also use a combo of 1/2 olive oil and 1/4 cup sour cream)
- 2 egg yolks
- juice of half a lemon

Add garlic and egg yolks to blender and combine.  Then pour in half the olive oil and keep blending.  Add lemon juice, then add the remaining olive oil and keep blending until thick and emulsified.  Once you reach the consistency of mayo, you're set to go!

Olive Tapenade:  I love love love this stuff!  Great on cheesy bruschetta, chicken, and well anything that works with olives and garlic.  If you haven't had it before, you gotta try it!  Even Alton Brown knows this one:

- 1/2 pound olives (I prefer black olives)
- 2 anchovy fillets (you can use anchovy paste too, just follow the conversion on the package)
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons Capers
- 2 or 3 Basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh Lemon Juice
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Drain olives well, and place all ingredients in blender.  Pulse until a course paste is made.  You're done!

Hummus:  A super easy dip you can make for parties, or just yourself, all with the help of your blender!  Best served with some toasted pita bread for an exotic appetizer:

- 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons Tahini (aka: sesame paste or substitute 1 teaspoon of Cumin)
- about 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- pinch of salt and black pepper

Just the same as the olive tapenade, throw all of the ingredients in the blender and pulse until smooth.

That's just the tip of the iceberg!  You can also made salsas like your classic tomato salsa for chips, or even salsa verde.  You can even puree soups, and also create a variety of dips, and for the moms out there, you can make fresh baby food too!  You don't have to feed your little ones store bought, processed baby food with preservatives, give them the freshest and healthiest foods!  Think beyond Margaritaville, and get the most out of your blender.

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