CONTEST CLOSED – Congrats to DeNai who won our Vitamix giveaway!

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What tools are to some guys, kitchen appliances are to me – and I imagine many of you can relate. There’s something about a shiny new appliance in the kitchen that just makes the food taste better – or at least make me want to cook more. Here are some great holiday gift picks for the kitchen – forward freely to the gift-buyers in your life. (Amazing giveaway below!)

Omega VRT350 Juicer: I wrote about this juicer a few weeks ago and have discovered there’s a reason it’s made by a company called Omega – it’s the last juicer you’ll ever need to own. From kale, spinach and dandelion greens to carrots, beets and celery, the Omega VRT350 has handled everything I’ve attempted to juice with ease. As a slow juicer, it carefully squeezes out the nutritious juice at 80 RPM (unlike traditional juicers that use speeds of 1,650 to 16,000 RPM to obliterate the food – and many of the nutrients). The vertical design makes it easy to store on the counter without sacrificing too much space, and the dual juicing screens (coarse and fine) let me customize the pulp level I want. Plus it’s fast, efficient, compact and quiet. $380 at Omega.

Breville Smart Oven: I love smart appliances and this is one do-all mini oven that is worth the counter space. The Smart Oven can toast and roast, bake and broil, reheat and keep warm to perf brevillesmartoven 300x230 A Smart Idea   The Breville Smart Oven ection every time. How is it so smart?† Its Element IQ ideally adjusts the ovenís 1800 watts of power based on which of the 9 preset menu functions you choose.† BROIL sends all the power to the top elements to perfectly melt cheese or brown meats.† TOAST equally browns both the top and bottom of the bread while BAGEL crisps the top side of the bagel, only lightly toasting the bottom side.† Making COOKIES?† The Smart Oven has a preset for that.† Need a fast dinner and want to throw in a PIZZA? Smart Oven has a preset and an included non-stick pizza pan.† If the cookies or pizza are frozen, just press the FROZEN FOODS button and the oven will automatically adjust the time to allow for defrosting and cooking. Even better, the Smart Oven remembers your desired settings for each category. The Smart Oven is a sleek, stainless steel toaster oven that blends seamlessly in the kitchen and makes toasting, roasting, baking and broiling effortless. Now if only it was self-cleaning…. $249 at Breville

Vitamix Professional Series 500: This recent release from Vitamix combines the powerful variable speed control Vitamix has always been known for with new pre-programmed settings for the recipes customers use more. Plus, they’ve added a Pulse button to give you complete control over your blending. If you’ve never used a deluxe blender like this, you’ll need to adjust your mindset of what a blender can do. Smoothies and pureed soups are elementary here. With a Vitamix, you have the ability to handcraft your own nut butters, grind grains into flour, chop everything from carrots and coleslaw to coconuts and cheese, whip up frozen desserts in seconds and mix and kneads bread dough. Yes, bread from your blender. I love the versatility and power the Vitamix Professional Series 500 offers and the help they provide in getting you to truly experience all the features and abilities of the blender with their helpful instructional DVD and recipe book with over 300 delicious inspirations. Just this week, I’ve tried out their Pumpkin Pie Latte and amazing Brie and Bacon Dip as well homemade almond butter and a berry sorbet. Plus the kids helped me make our own super-fine, colored sugar sprinkles for decorating cookies. An investment for sure, but worth it if you use all its features. $599 at Williams-Sonoma.

** GIVEAWAY ** Vitamix is giving away one of their Professional Series 500 blenders to one lucky MWS reader! To enter, leave a comment below with what you’re looking forward to blending, chopping, pureeing or grinding up most. You can earn additional entries by doing any of the following (be sure to come back here and leave us a separate comment telling us you did!)

– follow MWS or Vitamix on Facebook

– following MWS, Vitamix or me on Twitter

– share a link to this post on Facebook

– tweet about the contest using the hashtag #MWSvitamix

Contests ends December 22, 2011 at 11:59 PM PST. No PO boxes and US residents only. Winner will be chosen by random.org and notified via email. Winner has 3 days to respond or a new winner will be chosen. Please not that the product will NOT arrive in time for the Christmas holiday.

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Note: MWS was not paid for this review. Some product samples were provided.