Oster blender vs Vitamix vs Blendtec vs Preethi Mixer Grinder - the agonizing battle to choose the right blender

Whew! thats a long title. However, I really want someone going through the same dilemma to be able to easily find this post. I recently did a lot of research about getting a blender which does a variety of tasks, but mainly for indian cooking.

Having recently moved back to the US and finding myself without a blender, the quest for a new blender/mixer began immediately. Since we are an Indian household, it is no surprise that our need for an appliance that fits all our blending/grinding needs is crucial. Indian cooking without some form of mixing/blending/grinding is a bit too basic!

My requirements for the right blending appliance:

1) Grind masalas and spice pastes for Indian dishes. This includes onion-garlic-ginger pastes, bisibelebath pastes, tomato puree. These pastes contain liquid, so the average coffee grinder will not do.

2) Dried spice mixes. Comes in two categories - first is for times when I need just enough spice mix for one dish, like arachivitta sambar, or for making a small batch of flax seed powder or chia seed powder. Another category is grinding large spice mixes like paruppu podi (indian lentil mix), sambar podi (Indian sambar spice mix) or rasam podi. I still bought the proctor silex coffee grinder from amazon  - at $12, this works great for the former but not for the latter.

3) Coconut chutney and other chutneys. Deserves a bullet point by itself as we mostly make less than 2 cups of this chutney. Big blenders can make it, but you’ll need to make a larger quantity to get the right consistency.

4) Idli/dosa batter in a pinch. I will soon be getting an Ultra wet grinder for idli/dosai batter, so the primary purpose of my blender is not to make batter. But, some batter in a pinch will be useful.

5) Smoothies! I love smoothies - both fruit based and green based. While I wont have one everyday, we have smoothies at least 4 times a week. Its my favorite way to consume my fruit for the day. Our smoothies are mostly fruit based and will include some spinach, but less likely to include kale or carrots. Sure it will be nice to drink it, but its an edge case requirement.

6) Cool vegan stuff - cashew meal/butter, almond meal/butter, gluten free flours, vegan mayonnaise and other vegan dairy alternatives that are either expensive to buy in the store or needed infrequently enough to not warrant a purchase.

Costco/amazon/walmart/target has a great  $30 oster blender which has 10 speed settings and is a really good blender. This blender can surely manage smoothies, idli/dosa batter, and purees for indian curries. What it cannot manage to do well is tough green smoothie (like kale), spice pastes and mixes of about 1 cup, oat/rice flours, or purees of small quantities. Its a fantastic blender if you know its limitations and are aware that those limitations will not inconvenience you on a daily basis. I have personally used this blender in the past for a couple of years and only have good feedback about its performance. However, its only 450W and not nearly powerful enough or versatile enough for my needs. I would need to supplement with other appliances.

Vitamix and Blendtec and others in this category - Both blenders are 1000W and above and. Great power for the smoothie addict, or for idli/dosa batter or for making flours, nut butters etc. But both come with heavy price tags. A vitamix needs a dry grinding jar sold separately and brings the bill to over $500, while blendtec needs only one jar and can be found at costco for $300. Both blenders will not perform well for any blending/grinding of small quantities, though vitamix has a tamper which might solve the problem. So even if you paid hundreds of dollars to buy this, I’d still need to buy something else for smaller jobs. The place where a vitamix/blendtec really shines for smoothies is for blending hard veggies and greens like carrots, beets, greens. If your diet lifestyle will involve such smoothies, then I would buy it. But for a banana/mango/melon - pear - spinach - nut butter smoothie, I would go with a lower power blender with a much lower price tag.

Preethi twin jar mixer/grinder from Amazon. This now ships and sells from amazon for a tempting price tag of $99.99 and comes with two jars - big and small. The big jar is good for blending liquids and the small jar is good for chutneys, powders, flours etc. Great value now that it comes backed by amazon’s return policy and customer service with prime shipping. This is 550W - more than the oster blender, but far less than vitamix/blendtec. This is the bomb for Indian cooking, but for things like nut butters, tough green smoothies, it will be an average performer.

I finally decided to buy the preethi mixer/grinder from amazon. For a much smaller price tag, I will be able to do a variety of tasks. This with my mini spice blender should be suitable for most needs.

Vegan food in Cuzco, Peru

Eating vegan in Cuzco is really easy. There are tons of tourists here, and therefore, many options. 

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Sesame bar for 1 sole.

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Pedro Ruiz is a tiny one street town in Northern Peru. The only reason tourists go there is to get to Chachapoyas or on to Iquitos. I was prepared to not find veg food here, but ALL locals knew of this place as “restaurante vegetariano”. Seriously good plate of veg lomo saltado here. Very surprised and made our day!
No pictures of food, but I have the address and the name board. South America vegan traveler - go here!

Pedro Ruiz is a tiny one street town in Northern Peru. The only reason tourists go there is to get to Chachapoyas or on to Iquitos. I was prepared to not find veg food here, but ALL locals knew of this place as “restaurante vegetariano”. Seriously good plate of veg lomo saltado here. Very surprised and made our day!

No pictures of food, but I have the address and the name board. South America vegan traveler - go here!

Vegan Travel: Chachapoyas, Peru

From Vilcabamba, we made an incredibly long journey to Chachapoyas, Peru. It took us over 2 days to accomplish this journey and vegan food wasnt always easy to find during this journey. Our journey looked like this:

  • Vilcabamba to Zumba, Ecuador - overnight bus journey, overly delayed due to landslide blocked roads! 
  • Breakfast at Zumba. We hired a taxi at the bus station to drive us to the border with Peru. We also asked the taxi guy to take us to a restaurant that has food, coffee and clean restrooms. I had toast and coffee here. The Zumba bus station was brand new and didnt even have toilets open to the public.
  • The views from Zumba to La Balsa, the border are beautiful!
  • Once we cross the border, we took another collectivo (like a share-auto) to the city of San Ignacio. No food here as well. Another collectivo to Jaen. Jaen is a large city and we spent the night here. We did find one vegetarian restaurant, but it was closed. Unfortunately, I did not note down where it was. 
  • From Jaen, it was another collective to Bagua Grande and then another to Pedro Ruiz and then another to Chachapoyas. Phew. 

It was great to find three vegetarian restaurants in Chachapoyas. One was closed, sadly, but two are still open. In addition to that, the market is a block away from the main square is a lovely lovely place. Fresh fruits and vegetables abound here. Here is a quick photo tour:

This is the main market in chachapoyas. Its not this small and you can make in a maze as you go from this main corridor. You can find everything here. I often imagined myself living in this small lovely town and coming here on weekends for my fresh produce and grains!

So many juice stalls in the market. Do you see the juice with grains? Thats a quinoa drink. Quinoa, sugar, cinnamon, water. Yum!

Grains, pulses and beans.

Finally, a hearty vegan mixed vegetable rice dish at the El Eden vegetarian restaurant in Chachapoyas. Restaurants in this part of the world close early, open late and take breaks between lunch and dinner. So make sure you find out when they are open as you pass by and decide to come later for a meal. You might just find them closed. They have a set menu for lunch for about 4 soles which usually includes a drink, a salad from the salad bar, a soup and a main course plate. Thats less than $2!

Soy milk found at the local mini mart. Now I want to move to Chachapoyas. I even know a local who loves Hindi movies there. :D

Vegan Food in Chachapoyas, Peru

A little map that I drew that indicates two vegetarian restaurants. There is another one that I forgot to mark here ..you go right on Ayacucho away from the plaza towards the market and there is a restaurant on your left hand side. It was closed and didnt seem operational, so I am not sure if its still around.

El Eden is on Amazonas ave, its the very popular and big veg place. You cannot miss it. But the one you should check out is the one thats hard to find. Go here because they have a set menu for lunch and dinner and very unpretentious. Its a house converted into a small restaurant. They have a small stall selling health food. And the best all, they seem to be open on most days. This is on Grau - keep walking down on Grau away from the plaza. Restaurant is on the left hand side.

In the market, you’ll find stalls where the vendors are mixing various spice pastes for you to take home. This is common even in Bolivia. Look at the little packets she has made here for sale. Each cost about 1.5 soles. Pick this up, some veggies and rice and cook it all in a pot and you’re good for dinner.

So many juice stalls selling all sorts of fruit and grain juices. Yes! Grain juices. Made with quinoa. Yum!

Vegan Travel: Vilcabamba, Ecuador (valley of longevity)

Vilcabamba is just awesome. Can I start my post in such a way? By the time we were done with Vilcabamba, husband and I decided that its the place to open a small, quirky Indian food cafe + B&B and settle down in our later years. Why do I say that? Because it looks like this:

and this:

Apparently the soil here is incredibly fertile and things just grow. Its way south in Ecuador, close to the border with Peru. Vilcabamba is a very popular retirement haven with middle-aged and older expatriates from English speaking countries. You’ll find them gathered around expatriate cafes discussing everything about the world. One such awesome place is Charlitos. A very unpretentious cafe with a simple international menu (mostly American) and a very friendly owner. The owner Charlie knows all his regulars and takes time to chat with the newcomers too. He told us that he’d never seen Indian backpackers before and recommended that we open an Indian restaurant there - I really warmed to the idea. :)

Anyway, he knows vegan and does a tempeh sandwich really well. Apparently, the tofu and tempeh is locally made. I was thrilled.

Tempeh sandwich with avocados from Charlitos:

Potato and pea soup:

Just uphill from the central plaza is Restaurant Katherine, another small hole in the wall cafe which is veg friendly. People are usually happy to put together something for me. In this case it was “arroz, verduras y lentejas” (rice, veggies and lentils).

Finally, after a long long time, I got to eat soy products in Vilcambamba. A tofu noodles dish from Resto. Terraza. Tofu isnt very easy to find in South America!

Tofu + vegetable noodles from Terraza:

Vegan friendly restaurants in Vilcabamba, Ecuador:

  1. Charlitos, on Diego Vaca De La Vega between Av. Eterna Juventud & Calle Sucre
  2. Restaurant Katherine; On calle sucre 12-54 & Fernando de la vega.
  3. Juice Factory, on Calle Sucre across from the park
  4. Terraza Restaurant - @ the corner across from the tourism office (oficina de turismo). Has tempeh and tofu dishes, rice and noodles.
  5. Hostal Izhcayluma just outside town has an extensive veg menu thats very popular with all types of tourists. We stayed there and had a lovely time.

Recycled Khichdi - using leftover rice

We had a religious event at our house and ended up with tons of leftover rice which looked like this. Pretty boring!

I decided to change it a little bit so that we can all actually finish the rice. I chopped up some vegetables and stir fried them with black & white pepper:

I used some Doenjang (Korean soybean paste) and nutritional yeast to make a sauce and cooked them all together. I dont want to call it a pulao or a biryani as it was rather mushy in texture and I didnt want to use any traditional Indian spices as I’ve been having too much Indian food lately!

Recipe for my recycled khichdi - what you need:

  • Cold, dry, leftover rice - a whole lot (we had about 4 cups cooked on hand)
  • zucchini - cut into strips, about one cup
  • carrots - chopped, 1/2 cup
  • capsicum/green bell peppers - cut into strips, 1 cup
  • potatoes - chopped, 1/2 cup
  • leeks, white part - chopped finely, 1/2 cup
  • black pepper - 1 tsp or to taste
  • white pepper - 1/2 tsp or to taste
  • green chili - 1
  • salt, to taste
  • nutritional yeast - 1 tbsp
  • Doenjang - 1 tbsp (optional) / use soy sauce as a substitute (optional too)
  • Olive oil - 1 tbsp (1 + 1 tbsp)
  • Water - 1/2 cup

Method:

  1. In a large pot, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add the vegetables and stir-fry them for about 7 minutes. Add salt, black and white pepper powder and stir.
  2. Mix nutritional yeast, doenjang and enough water to form a thin paste 
  3. Add leftover rice to the pot along with doenjang-nooch mix and remaining water
  4. Cook over low heat to blend all the flavors and until the carrots/potatoes just are cooked

I have found doenjang in Bangalore at a few supermarkets like Spar and Foodhall. A 460 gram box costs Rs. 175.

Vegan Travel: Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca is a beautiful, colonial town in southern Ecuador. Narrow cobblestoned lanes, shady streets flanked by colonial buildings, little shops that dot these streets, a church every few streets thats a few hundred years old. All these interesting streets will culminate in a central square/plaza/zocalo where the locals will hang out during the weekends, street carts will sell local snacks and kids will run around and play with pigeons. Its the kind of place where I’d like to go live for a year or 6 months.

Thankfully, Cuenca is big enough and touristy enough to have good vegetarian food. A quick search on google will lead to plenty of results, so its really a matter of choosing the ones most convenient to you. I usually make a list of the veggie places with their addresses and phone numbers and mark them on a map (available for free at a tourist office) and if we happen to be near one during meal time, we check it out.

We stayed at Hostal Hogar Cuencana and we checked out the little international cafe just outside the hostel the day we arrived.

Bread with peanut butter, jam and cute little banana slices. Washed down with fresh black coffee. It is so satisfying to eat a comforting food like this in a foreign land.

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Vegan Travel: Banos, Ecuador

Banos is one of our favorite destinations from South America. Just to give you an idea, its nestled in a beautiful green valley, surrounded on all sides by mountains, one of which happens to be an active volcano. Its also Ecuador’s adventure capital. The term Banos literally means baths - the town has a natural spring for that very purpose. Yes, the Banans (?) sure do like to live on the edge. If you take a bus ride into Banos from any nearby city/town, say Quito or Latacunga, you’ll feel like you have left something weighty behind you and something heavy was just lifted off your shoulders.

The small town is brimming with backpackers and friendly locals who work in the adventure industry (rafting, paragliding, ziplining, mountaineering, biking etc.) and is home to an expatriate population too. Needless to say, veg-friendliness abounds in this little green hippie town. Here is what Banos looks like:

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The Produce of Ecuador

It is my firm belief that the best part of being vegan is the fresh produce we get to enjoy significantly more than non vegans. While travelling, especially backpacking, its very thrilling to be able to walk into the market on market day, pick up just the vegetables you need for just one meal and cook it into a delicious meal. I have noticed this time and again in hostels that the kitchen is the most crowded space. Many backpackers enjoy cooking a meal so its imperative that you know how to cook with just one pot or one pan and are able to clear the kitchen quickly enough. One of our favorites - stir fry fresh produce from market with minimal spices and eat it with bread, rice, noodles or just plain!

These pictures are from the amazing town of Banos in Ecuador. Its Ecuador’s adventure capital. The scenery is spectacular and the town has a very strong veg food scene - unfortunately, I still cant find my food pictures from here  I’ll be posting some food pictures and restaurant information in my next post.

Banos, Ecuador. You cant visit Ecuador and not go to Banos if you like the mountains.

Vegan Food in Old Town Quito, Ecuador

One can always heave a sigh of relief when entering a capital city while looking for veg*n food. I combine vegetarian and vegan here as both are equally challenging. After a not so stellar experience in Otavalo, we headed down to Quito on New Years day and settled in a hostel. We’d eventually discover that all the (vegetarian) restaurants would be closed that day. Thank God for chifas! A chifa is a chinese food joint named so in some countries in South America. A chifa will always be open, come rain or shine, be it a Sunday or a New Years Day. Not unlike in the US where we’d be on a road trip during christmas weekend and would only eat Chinese food. At a chifa, you can always get “arroz con verduras” or “tallarin con verduras”. Just dont forget to add “sin huevos” and the other “sins..”. There was a Chifa right next to our hostel, so dinner was taken care of.

The following day, I eagerly dragged my husband to the local Govindas restaurant in Old town, Quito. To my complete and utter delight, I discovered not one but THREE vegetarian restaurants on the same block!! All had set lunches for under $4!! If you are in Quito, I implore you to walk around the block that has Govindas and check out all three places before you decide on lunch.

Govindas and Kalpa Vriksha are both Hare Krishna restaurants right next to each other. Go up the hill and turn left to find a nameless vegetarian restaurant. Deal?

The meal at Govindas. Comes with soup and juice.

The premises also has a small Krishna temple:

The other Hare Krishna resto right next door. Why are there two restaurants right next to each other serving the same kind of food?

Go uphill (your legs will show you the way) and turn left to find this no-name veg almuerzo(lunch) place:

And to me, the crowning glory of our stay in Quito - finding authentic Indian food. I was craving and dreaming chole and and was so so happy to finally find it at an Indian restaurant in Quito. Indian restaurants in this part of the world are a rarity, so when a Russian girl at our hostel told us about this place, we walked 30 minutes to the La Mariscal district in Quito. When I say ‘we’, I am usually the initiator of food related activities and my husband just obliges.

Great India Restaurant, Quito, Ecuador; E4-54 Calle Calama between Calle Juan Leon Mera and Amazonas