Food and Fitness Fundamentals
Are you in need of a last minute holiday gift, or maybe just wanting to treat yourself to an updated culinary appliance? You don’t need to be a foodie to have a favorite. If you are looking for some ideas, check out what I consider to be “must haves” in my kitchen.
Rice Cooker I was given a small rice cooker for a present almost 30 years ago. It quickly became one of my most used small kitchen appliances. In fact, in addition to my small cooker, I have since bought two larger, 8-cup machines. Not only do I feel it is the ideal way to cook rice, it is also perfect for steaming fresh vegetables, as well as cooking polenta, beans, soups, stews, poaching fruit and making hot breakfast cereal.
Slow Cooker This item ranks equally as being my most treasured small appliance for the kitchen. I literally put my slow cooker to work at least once per week. It has also been a favorite gift giving item for several years. Beyond the fact this is an amazing way to cook, it allows for a great way to prepare a relaxing and delicious family meal without the last-minute scrambling due to the fact that the meal has been cooking since morning or afternoon. Coming home after a long busy day and smelling the fantastic tantalizing aromas is breathtaking.
I particularly enjoy the digital models that allow the temperature to automatically switch to the warm setting once the food is cooked. This allows the family to plate and serve at times that best suit their schedules. In the same way, slow cookers are also fantastic for breakfast items, such as steel cut oats. With a quick prep of ingredients before you go to bed, it cooks while you are sleeping; and your family wakes up to a heart-healthy breakfast without any work!
Pressure Cooker I have to admit that 12 years ago while recovering from yet another back surgery, I saw this device on TV and purchased it pretty much on a whim. It brought back many memories of my mom using hers during my childhood. Unlike yesteryear, today’s pressure cookers are now very safe and can come with various bells and whistles. This is a very quick and easy way to cook a wide variety of foods, including meat, fish and poultry, as well as soups, stews and side dishes. Risotto is my absolute favorite dish to cook in my pressure cooker. Within minutes, it’s cooked and ready to eat… and without constant stirring!
KitchenAid Mixer Since I am not a baker per se, and rarely make (let alone eat) desserts, I put off buying a good quality mixer until a couple years ago. My daughters, who are the true bakers in the family, absolutely love this appliance; and in hindsight, I wish I would have purchased one earlier in life when all the kids were still home. The many attachments and accessories available allow for a variety of other uses, such as kneading dough, grinding meat and making ice cream. I personally love it for preparing mashed potatoes.
Cuisinart Food Processor This is another appliance that I’ve had since my mid-20s. It may not be used as regularly, but it is excellent for quick slicing and dicing of produce, pureeing sauces, grinding whole spices, and mixing and kneading dough. My personal favorite use is for grating brick cheese. I always have some stored in a Ziploc bag in my refrigerator. Buying pre-grated cheese is certainly a convenient option, but I feel the quality and texture is significantly compromised by the addition of ingredients added to prevent caking and mold growth. Also, I find the more commercially processed cheese is often drier than fresh grated.
Bread Maker My son bought me a bread maker many years ago and I love it! With only minutes needed to throw ingredients together, the machine then does all the work, from mixing and raising to baking. There is nothing better than the swirling aromas and flavor of freshly baked bread.
So, whether you are looking for that perfect gift or a little something for yourself, consider these must have small kitchen appliances that can help make your everyday cooking fun, easy and enjoyable. If you have some coveted kitchen favorites of your own, feel free to share them in the comment section below.