Monday, November 25, 2013

My Favorite Small Appliances

So I have been without a stove for nearly two months. I have a stove now, a fancy electric thing that I am having a bit of trouble getting used to. Works great, lots of nifty features. I miss my gas stove. But that has nothing to do with this post. This post is about the small appliances that I used while I was waiting in stove limbo. And now that I have had a stove for a couple weeks, the ones I still use are really telling. So, without further ado, here's my list.

The Electric Frying Pan - I love this thing. It is so much easier to use than a pan on the stove. I remember thinking "who needs an electric frying pan when you have stove?" And so I don't actually own the thing. I certainly needed it when I didn't have a stove and now that I have one, I still prefer to use the electric frying pan. It always heats evenly and cleanup is a breeze. What do I make in it? Stir fry, omelettes, hash browns, peirogies, sausages & peppers, fried rice, pancakes, you name it. I used this thing every day when I didn't have a stove and now I have to return it to my mother, from whom it was borrowed (she only uses it at the annual Memorial Day family fish fry.) And I am sad. When I buy one for myself, I will be looking for one without the suspicious coating, but I don't expect I'll have much luck.

The Aroma Steamer - Another thing I figured I'd have no use for that I used almost every day when I didn't have a stove and continue to use daily even though I have one. In the morning you can throw in a handful of oatmeal, some raisins and dried apples and enough water to cover, sprinkle on some cinnamon, set it to steam for 10 minutes and you've got breakfast. You can make any kind of rice or quinoa pilaf in the thing as well as steaming veggies or fish or chicken in the top basket for a complete meal. I also use it to make chili and other soups. You can toss it all in in the morning and schedule it to be ready when you need it. And it cleans up super easy. This also has suspicious coating and that frustrates me a bit because there's not much stickiness that goes into this anyway.

The Crock Pot - The crock pot has always been a favorite tool, but not one I use every day. It is my favorite way to cook beans which might later be turned into hummus or added to chili or a rice or quinoa pilaf. It is also one of my favorite ways to process apples. Just cut them up, add sugar and cinnamon, cook it on low overnight and you have apple butter. Yum. Turn it up to high in the morning and plop on your favorite biscuit recipe, cover and cook another 20 minutes and you have apple cobbler (sort of). Very yummy. Of course it's also useful for potroast and pulled pork- neither of which I make very often. I actually have two different sized Crock Pots and a West Bend slow cooker. The 3 quart Crock Pot gets regular use as a bean cooker, the other two get used much less often.

The George Foreman Grill - I did not use this daily, but I used it often enough for it to make the list. I like it for grilling chicken breasts and I also made salmon in it once.

The Toaster Oven - Mostly I used the toaster oven to bake potatoes and roast beets. I also used it to make cheesy garlic bread out of some sub buns that had gone stale once. It is not big enough to take more than 1 sub bun or 3 potatoes or beets at a time and certainly not big enough to bake a batch of bread in. I am glad I had it, but I didn't use it every day.

Honorable mention must go to my food dehydrator which is hardly a necessary tool in the kitchen but made the abundance my apple tree produced this year into manageable bits, easily tossed into the steamer or crock pot to be used in whatever recipe I wish. (Especially helpful since pies and canning were not an option.) Next year I am going to use it to dry peppers, onions, blueberries and more into nifty bits that can simply be tossed in and simmered.

During my stove-free cooking foray I did not find a good solution for pasta. My pasta maker went un-used entirely because I didn't have any way of cooking pasta. My mother did lend me a hot pot which might have worked, but would have required me to work in several small batches. I didn't try this. I did try using her deep fryer to boil pasta but I couldn't get the taste of old oil out of it and the resulting pasta was pretty gross. It may have worked if it had been brand new. As I have never personally deep fried anything, the deep fryer didn't get used at all after that.

Aside from pasta and fresh baked bread, we did not go without when we went without the stove. And since I have been trying to cut carbs, this worked out perfectly for me. (The boys, not so much.) In reality, I could have gone without a stove indefinitely. If it had come down to buying an appliance (we got our new stove for free from a guy who was moving and didn't need it of I still wouldn't have one), I would have spent the money on a dishwasher before the stove as my cooking needs were pretty much met without it.

That being said, most of these small appliances, with the exception of the toaster oven and the Crock Pot, have suspicious non-stick chemical coatings. The West Bend items are the most suspicious-looking. I feel much safer cooking with my trusty Lodge cast iron pans and for that I need a stove and an oven. Or a fire pit - but I don't have time for that.

You'll notice that there is no microwave on here. I don't have one and haven't in a long time. I use the steamer or the toaster oven for reheating leftovers. I thought I'd get a new microwave eventually when the old one went out in a blaze of sparks and flashing lights but I haven't missed it so I don't think I'll bother. Besides, my husband is convinced it turns food into carcinogens.