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Until a couple of years ago I never spent much time in the kitchen. During my university days my idea of a meal was beans on toast or fish fingers and chips and during my post-uni travelling days it was a meal in a can or a take away pizza. These days I enjoy spending more and more nights in with a home cooked meal and take great satisfaction from cooking for friends or preparing a big meal for myself and my partner. To be honest I've never really felt I needed something like a blender, but after attempting to make a couple of soups without one I decided it might be better to invest. So after all the usual deliberation, internet research and comparisons, I bought the Philips HR2160/50 blender. I had an image of coming home during the week, when the previous week's shopping was running out, chopping all the leftover vegetables and conjuring up a lovely soup for dinner. Then on weekends, after going to the gym on a Saturday, mixing myself a healthy fruit smoothie. So, over the last few months I've put it to the test! =Why Phillips? = Well as this was my first blender I wanted to be sure it wasn't going to break on me as soon as I switched it on (this was some of the feedback for some of the cheap blenders!), so I leaned towards choosing one of the biggest and most popular brands around. Founded back in 1891, Philips are leaders in the world of DVD players, electric shavers and I hoped, kitchen blenders. My partner who works in environment/sustainability tells me that Philips ranks third in the 'Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics' (after Nokia and Sony Ericsson). Philips also supports the Individual Producer Responsibility principle, which means that the company is accepting the responsibility for the toxic impacts of its products on e-waste dumps around the world. This probably would not have influenced my buying decision much but it does make me happier! = Setting it up and using the blender = Philips use the slogan "Sense and simplicity". And it really is! The parts are easy to identify from the box and simple to assemble. I thought, as with all contraptions I buy that it would take ages and include a lengthy instruction list but this one couldn't have been simpler. A jug, a base, a blade! It took just a few minutes to set up and turn it on to check that it worked! The dial on the front has different speeds that you can use to blend the food. Depending on how much food you are using, how tough it is and how brave you are there is a dial where you can turn between 'min' and 'max' for power. There is also a useful 'ice' button which you can press to crush ice for cocktails. Even though the machine is sturdy I find it's best to hold the lid down - I wouldn't want bits of ice flying in my face! = What does it look like? = The blender's neutral colours of grey and black with a clear jug does look quite slick and attractive on the work surface. I don't think it would negatively stand out in any kitchen, and the fact that it is quite compact means it doesn't take up too much room in a cupboard or on the counter top. The jug which contains the food is removable and works as a jug which is very handy. The machine itself is very light but sturdy enough that it won't jump up and down when it is turned on. = Ease of Use = Soups Making soups has become ten times easier with a blender, especially seeing as I like pureed soups rather than chunky ones. The range of speeds means it can grind through everything really easily and I can choose the speed. I just spend 10 minutes boiling up some vegetables to make them softer, throw them in the jug and switch on the blender for a few seconds. As it is hand-operated, it is easy to gauge just how much pressure you need to apply in order to create a good blend with no lumps. The blender has a 2.1 litre capacity so I can make up to 5 bowls worth in one go which is easy (and healthy!) to take for lunches which has been fantastic. On average the soups have 3 of my 5 portions of recommended fruit and vegetables which I know I wouldn't get otherwise! Fruit smoothies When life gives you lemon you're apparently supposed to make lemonade. However I've found the best way to make a smoothie is with whatever is in the fruit bowl. I never buy them from shops because there is always something in them that I don't like so the best way is to make it myself! Again this is another excellent way of getting some of my recommended portions of fruit and vegetables when finding the time to eat enough fruit can be difficult. In 5 minutes I can have a fruit smoothie which is really convenient, especially to throw in my water bottle and walk up to the tube station with on a morning! I'm certainly no expert on making smoothies and have really just played it by ear so far. The first smoothie I made was banana and strawberry - my two favourite fruits! I just peeled the banana, washed the strawberries and threw them in the blender along with a big scoop of ice cream and some milk. The blender took just seconds to blend it into a drinkable form and from there all I had to do was remove the jug and pour into glasses. I like to drink orange juice a lot so I've found that orange smoothies are a good energy boosting, healthy alternative. I unpeel an orange and banana, de-core and peel and apple and add them to the blender. Apple takes longer to blend so I cut it into small chunks first and give it at least 20 seconds. I then add some water and pure orange juice (just the cheap stuff from a carton) to water it down and make it more liquidy. And a nice Mojito.., One of the best things about this particular model is that it has an ice crusher. This means that it's really useful for cocktails. After putting together all the ingredients I fill the blender halfway with ice cubes. Then I pour the rum mixture and add the soda. The blender then grinds the ice, making a refreshing Mojito - my favourite! The taste is smooth and the ice is perfectly crushed. I find it's better to do it this way that crushing the ice separately - it just ends up round the edges if I do that. I don't really know what to do with the mint though so I generally leave that out and add it at the end just to make the drink look pretty! = Cost = £39.99 to me seemed decent value for a good blender. We bought it from Comet but it can also be found in Argos and many online shops. Of course you can pick up a blender for as cheap as £15 but I'd have concerns over durability, and as low as £5 for a handheld one but they're a bit too messy for me! Conversely, I have also seen blenders up to £100 but couldn't quite work out what super tricks they could do that this one couldn't! = How to clean it = The benefit of having few parts is that cleaning isn't time consuming. I can also safely say that every last trace of food or drink can be removed from every little nook and cranny very easily before putting the parts back together. The blades are removable and I just introduce those and the jug into to my normal washing up and make sure I'm careful not to cut myself on the blade with a long handled washing up brush. = Summary = Overall I would definitely recommend this product to anyone who wants a durable and powerful blender. It's an effective product, very easy to assemble and blends effortlessly whether you want to make smoothies, soups or cocktails! It is quite loud like any other blender but luckily only needs to be switched on for short periods of time! It's done everything I've wanted from it without fail and is a very versatile machine. I've done my research on the market and think I have definitely made the right choice in my first blender. 4/5 from me!
Short name: Philips HR2160/50