Ricki’s Raves (1): Healthy Food Made More Convenient

Ricki's Raves

It’s holiday season! Wahoo!

That said, I know that you’re probably coming across endless posts about holiday gift-giving. Well, I’m no different from anyone else in that department (I love giving–and receiving–gifts!). But I wanted to so something a little different on the site this holiday season.

So. . . I’ve decided to start a little series called Ricki’s Raves, in which I share some of my favorite items (both food and non-food alike) that I truly love, and use, all the time. Basically, you just need to try these things! They also make great gifts, of course (or maybe even gifts for yourself).

The series will span the next three weeks and cover “Healthy Food Made Easy” (appliances and tools); “Healthy Food Made Sweeter” (sweeteners and chocolate–because, CHOCOLATE!); and “Healthy Food Made More Convenient” (my equivalent of convenience foods–except healthy).

So let’s get to it–up today: some of my favorite machines!

High Powered Blender

blender for healthy food on rickiheller.com

What it is

Although it’s not a true necessity if you’re cooking healthy food, a high-powered blender certainly does make life easier when you’re prepping smoothies, nut butters, or other blended items that you want to be ultra silky-smooth. It’s sturdier, bigger, and has a stronger motor than most blenders.

Why you want one

My Vitamix was the first appliance I bought that was a real “investment” (read: whoah, expensive!).

After going through nutrition school and learning about greens-based smoothies, I tried a few with the regular Osterizer blender I had at the time, and they were, to put it mildly, vomitorious. What you don’t want in a smoothie is little grainy bits of kale that stick to your tongue and get wedged between your teeth. Um, nope.

With a high-powered blender, your smoothies will be. . . smooth. They can turn raw veggies, nuts and seeds, fruits and cooked grains into silky smooth drinks, soups, sauces and more. They’re also great for instant “sorbet” made from frozen fruit.

What I recommend

A few years after I got my Vitamix, I was gifted with a Blendtec as well, so I was able to conduct a few comparison experiments to determine my favorite. And guess what? Each one is my favorite, but for different uses.

I like the Vitamix better for ultra-smooth smoothies (the Blendtec gets them incredibly smooth, too, but just a fraction less so).

I prefer the Blendtec for nut butters because of the larger jug and easier cleaning (the walls of the Blendtec are smooth, so you can scrape them clean much more easily than the ridged edges of the Vitamix–I always feel as if I’m leaving precious bits of my food in the Vitamix, no matter how much I scrape).


The Vitamix 5300 retails on amazon for $439.95 in the US and $1029.64 (say what?!) in Canada.

The Blendtec Wildside retails on amazon for $429.65 in the US and $685.31 in Canada.

Recipes I love using a high-powered blender

Somer McCowan cheese ball recipe on rickiheller.com

Somer’s Extra Sharp Kick-Ace Holiday Cheeze Ball

candida diet, vegan, glutenfree chestnut spice latte on rickiheller.com

Chestnut Spice Latte


Creamy Potato-Leek Soup

Food Processor

cuisinart on rickiheller.com


What it is

Just in case there’s someone out there who doesn’t know, a food processor is a handy-dandy machine that can blend, chop, and grate (if you have the right attachment) just about anything. I adore my food processor and use it every. single. day. Not only that–I use it for my DOGS every. single. day.

My favorite uses are for nut butters, veggie pates, mixing up cake and cookie batters (I’m lazy that way–who needs bowls?), and to make my no-ice-cream-maker-required ice creams (which we eat all year round).

I also use it daily to make my dogs’ veggie gruel, a mix of sweet potato, apple, and one or two other veggies and fruits (usually cauliflower or kale).

Why you want one

A good food processor will make your life easier, speed up prep and clean-up time, and basically just make life more pleasant.

What I recommend

For most of my adult life, I’ve been using Cuisinart. You’ll see my old machine (about 15 years old, now) on the left, and the new one on the right.

There’s really nothing I’ve ever encountered that I like as much as the Cuisinart. Over the years, I’ve tested almost a dozen different brands at cooking schools where I taught across the city, and really, nothing compares. Cuisinart offers a (relatively) clean design, strong motor, and reliable blending.

That said, I prefer the older (now no longer available) models to the newer ones. About a year ago, when I knew I would soon need a new machine, I began to use the old one for dog food prep. Now that we have a new “people” machine, I’m sorry I didn’t save the old one for us and use the new one for the dog gruel.

In my opinion, the new models, as pretty as they are, pale in comparison with the older models that were built more simply. In this case, the basic construction works better (bits of food don’t get stuck under the blades) and cleanup is MUCH easier (no rubber band along the inside of the top cover where food can get stuck, which means no need for a special brush to clear it out before putting it in the dishwasher. That’s way too much “work” for my liking). That said, I’d still go with Cuisinart over anything else.


The Cuisinart 14-cup (the one I have–we go big or go home) costs $179.99 in the US and $337.54 in Canada. 

Recipes I love using a food processor

Vegan, Candida Friendly, sugar-free Cranberry Ice Cream recipe on RickiHeller.com

Cranberry Ice Cream (great for cranberry sauce leftovers)

Vegan, candida diet, walnut butter on rickiheller.com

Butterscotch Walco-Nut Butter with Cacao Nibs

sugar-free, raw vegan porridge recipe on rickiheller.com

Super Quick & Easy Raw Porridge Bowl

Slow Cooker

slow cooker on rickiheller.com

What it is

“Slow cooker” encompasses any of a number of machines that allow you to add ingredients (the recipe must contain moisture for cooking) and then, basically, walk away for 6 to 8 hours. They usually consist of a heating element (the machine base), a pot and a lid. Sometimes also called a crockpot.

Why you want one

I’m late to this party, but once I started using the Breville Risotto Plus (a slow cooker and risotto maker with additional steamer capacity), I have to say, I’m hooked.

While it sounds like an oxymoron, a slow cooker actually saves you time in the kitchen. You prep and throw everything into the pot–then get to go about your business for the rest of the day (or sleep at night while it performs its magic). So, even though the actual cooking time takes longer, you end up with more time to yourself while it does the work.

What I recommend

The only machine I’ve tried is the Breville, so I can’t compare to more conventional slow cookers. That said, I loved this machine. The beauty of the Breville is that you can do everything right in one pot; conventional slow cookers require you to sauté any onions and garlic or other veggies separately, then add to the slow cooker with the other ingredients. With its sauté function, the Breville Risotto Plus lets you do it all in the same container. I loved that there was only one clean-up once I was done (I’m lazy that way–see “Food Processor,” above).

I tried the slow cooker for soup, baked beans and scalloped potatoes, and they all came out great. I also used the risotto function for my carrot risotto, and was amazed that the rice came out perfectly! All in all, a terrific machine.

One note: the pot is lined with teflon, which I know might be an issue for some of you. I think if they replaced it with a ceramic-lined pot instead, they’d have the absolute ideal slow cooker.


The Breville Risotto Plus Sauteing Slow Rice Cooker and Steamer retails for $129.90 in the US and $139.95 in Canada. 

Recipes I love using a slow cooker

Vegan, glutenfree carrot risotto


Creamy Carrot Risotto (recipe available in The Sweet Life club).

Candida diet, gluten-free, sugar-free baked beans

Homemade Baked Beans (recipe coming up soon!)

I also plan to try ketchup, applesauce and chili!

I hope you enjoyed this first installment of Ricki’s Raves. Stay tuned for some food posts coming up.

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Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by some or all of the companies featured here. As always, my opinions are my own. I never (ever) recommend items or products on the site that I don’t already use and love. If some links are affliate links and you choose to purchase using those links, at no cost to you, I will receive a small percentage of the sale. 



  1. For those in Canada, the Vitamix blenders are way cheaper either direct from Vitamix (www.vitamix.ca) or at Canadian Tire which now carries couple of models.

  2. This is a great line-up Ricki and you’re really selling it with the recipes 🙂 Years ago, we had all of these appliances and they never got used. Since then, we got a Ninja – with personal size blender attachment – and a small 2-person crockpot. Now we use both daily! I think the larger machines just weren’t worth it for our small house. I’m wondering now if I shouldn’t try again with a food processor but get a small one!

    • Thanks, Alisa! I have lots of other appliances, too, of course, but these are the ones I actually USE on a regular basis. I love the idea of a 2-person crockpot, too! But since I love big-batch cooking and freezing leftovers, the big one works for me. 🙂

  3. Hi Ricki, Super great review and I absolutely love how you paired your reviews with healthy recipes I would actually use! ?
    I am wondering if you have ever used a stick blender / immersion blender? I had one I loved to make a quick smoothie & it was such a super quick and easy clean up as well; unfortunately it melted (the extreme heat bent it) as we left it out in the garage in a packing box when we moved. It was a Cuisinart, I believe.
    Thanks again for such a great article.

    • Hi Cheryl,
      Yes, I do have an immersion blender, too. Believe it or not, I got mine for free at a summer fair for signing up for a newspaper subscription! It’s actually pretty good (it’s a Braun), but my feeling is that there are several others that can do the same job (though I don’t own others). I do use it in soups, straight into the pot, but I always wait at least 10-15 minutes first to let the soup cool down so it’s not boiling (or near-boiling). Maybe you didn’t wait long enough? I’d try again and see how it goes. I know that there are also metal-only ones available (like this one) so you don’t have to worry about melting it!

  4. Hi Ricki! I was wondering if you could elaborate on what you feed your dogs? (I know that isn’t the goal of this post) I have been following you for years – being vegan and on a candida diet, you have been a life saver! I recently rescued a dog and want to feed him a clean diet like myself…..but being vegan I can’t bring myself to have raw meat in my house. So unfortunately he is eating kibble right now and I do feed him scrap veggies. I would love to know what you feed your dogs to keep them healthy 🙂

    • Hi Jillian,
      Our dogs do best with some meat, so we do include that in their diet. We also buy a high-protein kibble for them, which I mix with their “gruel” every day to round out the nutrition. I know that some people give their dogs beans as their major protein, but our dogs didn’t do well that way. Dogs are omnivores, so theoretically (unlike cats), they can live on a meat-free diet. It’s worth trying if it’s important to you, but I’d also check their blood levels and other health markers regularly with my vet until I was sure it was working for them. 🙂

  5. very detailed raves, thank you! I love my Vitamix and use it daily! the colder months we use our pressure cooker a ton (SO fast!) in conjunction with our slow cooker (nice to come home to good smells!). the things that make our kitchen life easier, right? 🙂

    • Thanks, Kristina! I use mine almost daily and still do love it. And I know what you mean about pressure cooker vs slow cooker–I still have to try out the former! (One appliance at a time. . .). 😉

  6. What a fun post! I look forward to reading more in this series. I use my Vitamix daily, and my only regret is that I didn’t buy it sooner. I wanted one for years before I took the financial leap. In addition to all of the plusses you mentioned, I love how easy it is to clean by running it with soap and water. That said, you’re totally right about the ridges where sticky foods are concerned. I always wonder why they made ridges in their pitchers. They don’t add anything functionally or aesthetically, and it does make them tougher to clean.

    • Thanks, Cadry! I forgot about cleaning–yes, SO easy! My hubby (the engineer) actually told me that the ridges help to keep it sturdy so that the food whizzing around won’t cause the sides to weaken (or eventually break). But what do I know about such things? 😉

  7. I have all three of theses gadgets and I love them all! Dennis gave me a Vitamix for Valentine’s day 6 or 7 years ago. My vegan and health coach friends were all amazed. My other friends didn’t understand why he would get me a blender for Valentine’s Day or why I’d be happy about it.


  1. […] missed Part One, “Healthy Food Made More Convenient” (my favorite appliances), you can find it here. Part Three will cover prepared and packaged foods that I […]

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