I say “blender,” you think “smoothie.” But not so fast! There are plenty of nutritious foods you can easily whip up in your blender. Some of my favorite uses for this multitasking kitchen appliance…

• Salad dressing. Why buy bottled versions (virtually all swim in sodium, and many have added high-fructose corn syrup), when you can easily blend your own healthy dressings? For a simple vinaigrette: Toss in three tablespoons of premium extra-virgin olive oil…a fresh, minced garlic clove…one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice…one-half teaspoon of Dijon mustard and blend away. Makes two servings.

• Tomato sauce. This processed food is also often loaded with sodium, sugar and bad fats. Best to whip up a batch of your own using fresh, unpeeled tomatoes, fresh garlic, fresh basil and other seasonings you might like such as oregano, black pepper and a touch of sugar. No cooking required, just purée! 

• Pesto. Pesto is ridiculously easy to make in a blender. Just add one-third cup of pine nuts…one-half cup of extra-virgin olive oil…one-half cup of fresh Parmesan cheese…three fresh, minced garlic cloves…two cups of fresh basil leaves and whirl away. Use pesto as a topping for whole-grain pasta, as a sandwich spread, as a topping for fish or simply as a salad dressing. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

• Soups. Your blended soup will beat canned versions, which are often high in sodium and bad fats and may leach harmful bisphenol A (BPA). Try this one… 

Carrot Soup with Ginger and Garlic

This soup offers megadoses of antioxidants. It doesn’t get healthier than that! 

Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons diced onions
½ teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
½ teaspoon honey
1 Tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 cup peeled and chopped carrots
3 cups vegetable broth, low sodium
¼ cup peeled and diced sweet potato
Dash of salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon minced fresh garlic

Directions: In a medium saucepan, sauté onions in olive oil over low heat, until onions are translucent. Add syrup, honey and ginger. Cook until onions begin to turn a golden brown (about 10 minutes). Add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until carrots and sweet potatoes are soft. Cool slightly, and purée until smooth. If desired, warm soup before serving. Makes two servings.

Nutritional information per serving: Calories, 110…fat, 1.5 g…cholesterol, 0 g…dietary fiber, 4 g…protein, 1 g…sodium, 260 mg…sugar, 14 g.