Vitamix basics class

There are a few kitchen tools and applicances out there that can change the way you cook, and eat, forever.  They can encourage healthy eating, cut down on prep time, and expand your culinary horizons.  My new Vitamix Ascent series falls into that category.  I’m never turning back!   


To make best use of my new machine and get acclimated with the various settings and capabilities, I attended a Vitamix basics class at the company’s one and only brick and mortar store in Solon, Ohio.  The store manager Michelle, and her team helped a small crowd get to know all the delicious, versatile and healthy creations one can make with this awesome blender.

Attendees were treated to generous samples and invited to help out in executing the 8 recipes demonstrated during the class to have a more hands on experience.  I did a Facebook live during the first portion of the class.  If you’d like to check it out, click here:  Vitamix Basics Class Facebook Live Video


We started with a cocktail, a healthy one made with spinach. Since the class, I have made this at least a dozen times, even putting my own twist on it occasionally, adding things like half an avocado or almond milk to make it creamy. 


Next we sampled and prepared an example of what Vitamix is famous for, smoothies.  This one had beets, strawberries, and cranberries in it.  Since I couldn’t find frozen cranberries in my grocery store I substituted with frozen cherries when I tried this at home, plus I added some of the green beet tops for additional nutrients.  This one is another new go-to for me in the mornings.  Look at the vibrant color on this!  

I don’t know about you, but summer salads are a staple in my lunch box and dinner table, especially with all the lettuce varieties I have planted in my garden this year.  But I am always looking for new bold dressings to spice it up.  The creamy raspberry vinaigrette was a sweet tart punch, that would be beautiful with a nice spinach salad, for example.  I have a bucket full of fresh picked strawberries that are super ripe, so I’m planning to try this recipe with those as well.  

For a “main course” of our class, Michelle demonstrated a black bean soup.  Technically the Vitamix doesn’t cook the soup, but the blades run for five minutes to fully blend all of the ingredients together and the finished product is piping hot.  You can transfer the soup to a pot to cook further, or freeze it if you’d like. It was creamy, spicy and filling.  I can see us making this a great quick-fix weeknight dinner option, or an easy meal to take to friends houses when you’re visiting a new baby or new home.  


This class also helped me think of the Vitamix not just as a blender, but also as a food processor.  It’ll cut down your chop time significantly on recipes like homemade salsa.  I tried it on a pineapple salsa I was making for a TV demo and was thrilled at the results.   

Want something you can make your kids with only two ingredients? Try the raw applesauce.  I love knowing it only has natural sugars in it when I spoon it on to their plates. 


Hummus is anothe recipe people rarely seem to try on their own, but it is so very delicious when made fresh.  The version Micheel made for the demo was creamy and easy, and a perfect make ahead item for a party or healthy option to have in the fridge for the week. 

We made the Vitamix work the hardest when we saw Michelle turn four cups of cashews into homemade cashew butter.  I would spread that on a tire and still want to eat it! To be honest, I was hoping that making it myself would make it a little less expensive.  That isn’t necessarily the case, depending on where you buy your nuts, but it may still be worth it for those who eat it by the jar, or who would appreciate knowing the nutritional content, and controlling it. My daughter now claims she can taste the difference between my homemade peanut butter and store bought.  I actually believe her. It’s that good. 


Can’t believe the machine actually cleans itself out after that, especially with something so sticky.  Michelle shared a great tip too!  On days she makes nut butters, before she cleans out her container, she will make something with the residual product, like a peanut sauce or a peanut butter milk shake.  Great Cheftovers ideas!  

For dessert, we had a refreshing strawberry lime sorbet.  I’ve been picking fresh strawberries and stocking up on beautiful other berries while they’re in season, then freezing them.  Can’t wait to put them to use with a sorbet using my “frozen dessert” program on my own machine.

When I got home from the class, I immediately wanted to start putting all of these great ideas and applications to work.  I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.  But I have been working on some pesto recipes using my Vitamix, like a mint pea and a kale walnut combo. Tell me what you think!

Kale Walnut Pesto

  • 1/3 walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 c. Chopped kale
  • 1 T. Lemon juice
  • 1.2 c. Olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 t. Salt
  • 1/4 pepper

Add all above ingredients except the olive oil into your Vitamix or food processor. Begin mixing and slowly stream=a in your oil until the mixture is smooth.  Add more if it’s too dry.  Taste for seasoning and refridgerate or use immediately.  

Disclosure: I was invited by Vitamix to attend this class free of charge.  All opinions are my own.

Cake School: Colette Peters Fondant Class

Ever walk past a window display at a bakery and think…’how’d they do that?’  Or say, ‘I can do that’!  Elaborate cake decorating is one of the hottest trends in cooking these days.  Cake competition shows and decorating demos flood the Food Network.  For some, it’s a calling.  For others, a passion.  For me, it’s something I’ve never even attempted.  Too intimidated.  Some things are better left to others.  But when one of the best bakers in the world, Colette Peters, offers you some one on one time to talk about how she creates her incredible confections…you gotta take her up on it.

Famed cake decorator to the stars, reality show pioneer, and decorating school founder, Colette Peters, of Colette’s Cakes, paid a visit to Cuyahoga Community College’s Hospitality Management Center this weekend.  She offered her time and expertise to students and amateurs alike.

purple fondant

I sat in on a fondant class where novices and budding cake queens learned tips and tricks from the woman who has baked and decorated for the likes of Sting, The Rolling Stones, Whoopi Goldberg, Kanye West, Yoko Ono and even The White House.

Peters spent the beginning of the day trouble shooting and helping students answer questions about what they were doing wrong.  Most of the time, she told me, bakers don’t work fast enough and the fondant gets too dry, and often cracks.  The fix? Simple.  Rub it down and smooth it over with some shortening.  Who knew?!

Sisters Robin Wilson and Debbie Hartman were there looking for ways to be more efficient, and turn their weekend hobby into a legitimate business.  Right now, they’re picking away at every cake they make, in the spare time they can find.  But each cake takes about 10 hours for them.

sisters applying fondant

Nancy Bolzan works in the family business: Gentile’s Bakery, Catering and Deli.  She can knock out a fondant-topped cake in about two hours.  But she is looking to expand her repertoire, so she came to the class to pick up some new techniques.

Students at the Sunday class learned marbling techniques, and Peter’s own buttercream recipe.  They also tackled questions like when to frost, and at what temperature.

smoothing fondant

Peters comes to the table with two degrees in painting, and a background in design at Tiffany & Co. where she worked on things like stationary and china.   She was also a competitor, and winner, on Food Network’s original baking competition.  Peters even helped them write the rules for subsequent shows.

colette peters Food Network

To those like Robin and Debbie, looking to make some more of their baking hobby, she says…take classes!  There you can learn in a hands on manner, and ask practical questions.  Or, she says, take advantage of the resources of your state’s chapter, and conventions, of the International Cake Exploration Societe.

Colette Peters cakes

photo courtesy Facebook

What’s trending and on the horizon for this innovative baker?  Right now Peters tells me she is working on a collaboration inspired by Cirque de Soleil, and edible cages around her famous cakes.  Can’t wait to see how those turn out!

And incidentally, it was just her 65th Birthday, so to celebrate, the team at Tri-C launched an international sugar collaboration in her honor. Check it out:
www.happybirthdaycolette.com  Fans and students are leaving messages and sharing pictures of cakes made just for her!

Peters is doing a FREE “Painting on cake” demo for the public on Monday, February 1st, from noon-1:30pm at the Hospitality Management Center, 180 Euclid Ave.  Cleveland, Ohio.