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Saturday, August 27, 2011

My Favorite Things- Mama Bean Goes Oprah

Honestly,  I am not materialistic.  I promise.

I do however, like to cook.

I also have a problem with small kitchen appliances.

It's actually an addiction.

Since I know this- I haven't purchased anything in nearly 2-3 years since the yogurt maker.

Yes, yogurt maker.  It makes fabulous yogurt.  Seriously.  I love plain yogurt and homemade yogurt tastes great.  You can even build your own, perfect culture.  However, it is not particularly cheaper to make it and it is a bit of a pain to heat the milk, let it cool to the exact temperature-- it's cheaper and easier to just buy it.  (And might I say, if you haven't ventured into the world of plain yogurt-- you should try it.  Once you start adding your own fresh fruit, flavored yogurt will start to taste disgustingly sweet.  A little cinnamon on top.... here I go babbling about cooking... anyhow, just because you buy it plain, doesn't mean you have to eat it plain!)

We recently added three new appliances to our household.  All three were home runs.  We actually use them almost daily.  I have never been happier with purchases.

So, like Oprah, I would like to tell you a bit about these products. I would also like to point out that I waited for 2 of them to drop dramatically in price before I purchased them.  I am not recommending that you run and buy any of them immediately because you can't live without them.  You can.  But, if you find yourself needing to replace something that breaks, well, these are really great options.

Our first purchase was a cappuccino/coffee maker.  Our coffee maker started to die.  It was a wedding gift 10 years ago.  It was a fabulous Melita Grind and Brew that they don't make any more.  The filter was leaking, we couldn't find a replacement for the part.  We were out at Fry's (aka nerd mecca--- we love it) and found....


It was $79- much less than the grind and brew options that are out there.  We did get coffee grinder separately. (FYI- the reviews on Amazon are terrible, but upon further review, every non-commercial cappuccino maker has terrible reviews.  We are just assuming this will be short lived.  I am a fan of the french press and we can always froth milk with a little frother whipper thingy.)

Mr. Bean has mastered the perfect cappuccino.  What we aren't spending at Starbucks, has already covered the cost of the machine- $79 is what, 3 lattes?  It's also fun.  The house smells great.  We've bought some flavorings.  I like a hazelnut and chocolate latte.  He likes a caramel cappuccino.  Plus, since we're Democrats, it was only a matter of time that we would get one.  In fact, if you come over, we'll make you one and charge you a usage tax (that was to make my Republican friends laugh... you really can have one for free... even if you're not a citizen... I really can make political jokes all night....).

Mr. Bean's Perfect Cappuccino

The next purchase was to replace my ongoing issues that I have with slow cookers.  I can make a souffle more easily than I can cook something in a slow cooker.  I don't get slow cookers.  You have to brown everything before hand, so why not just roast something or simmer it on the stove?  Plus, one that I had burned everything- I read the reviews on Amazon- it wasn't just me.  Then I got a nice Kitchen Aid one- the crock cracks every 3 months.  They are great at replacing it, but honestly, it's a pain.  Then I heard about the....


When it dropped below $200, I went to get one at Williams-Sonoma to get it.  They were sold out.  For a year, every time I went, they were sold out.  I figured it was a good thing they didn't have it because what do I really need with a $200 slow cooker (formerly $365) when my history with slow cookers was not spectacular?

Then I asked the people at W-S what they thought. They said it was, by far, their most used appliance.  They used it 5-6 times a week for demos.  They explained that you actually can brown/sautee in it- not taking the crock out, but actually IN the cooker, then flip it to slow cook.
It slow cooks, roasts, sautees/browns and steams.

Today I made a pork roast, browned it in the crock, removed the roast, deglazed the pan, poured out the sauce, put the roast back, switched to slow cook, then poured the sauce over.  When it was done, I removed the roast and made a gravy from the drippings- ALL IN ONE COOKER.  I make gravy once a year, usually (Thanksgiving) because it's a pain and I'm not a fan.  This was delicious- didn't lump, didn't burn- nice even cooking.

Last week, I roasted a chicken.  Nothing beats beer can chicken on the charcoal grill, but it was definitely moist and very evenly cooked.

I'm excited to use it to make my marinara sauce.  I feel safer having it cook in the cooker for long periods, with an auto shut off, than on the stove top, cooking for a few hours.  

I haven't steamed with it yet, but I heard it's amazing at that as well.

It is also easy to clean and very intuitive to use.

It's replaced 2 appliances - my slow cooker and my steamer- and added a third, a roaster.

If you're short on space, this should be on your list. 

And while I was at William-Sonoma getting the multi-cooker, I got the ultimate kitchen appliance. This is the thing that I will be wondering why I waited 2 years to get....

Toasting a whole wheat tortilla topped with red peppers, laughing cow cheese and some diced ham.  YUM.

I have always been a fan of toaster ovens.  When I was single I used mine constantly.  I baked chicken breasts, fish, cookies- anything in it.  It saved me from turning on the oven for an individual serving.  I loved it.  When my little cheapie one finally died, I was newly married to my husband who does not embrace appliances like I do, we decided it didn't make much sense to replace it.  We got a 4 slice toaster for our new family.  I have a double oven. A toaster oven seemed excessive.

Then I watched "America's Test Kitchen."  They raved about it.  I read the reviews.  4 3/4 stars with 592 reviews on Amazon-- that's insane.

It was on sale at W-S and since we had counter space (I have been slowly getting rid of appliances I don't use), we agreed to give it a shot.  Our thoughts were if we didn't use it, his mom would probably like it.


To say I love this thing is a vast understatement.

Let's start with toast...


Easy enough.

How good can toast possibly be?

Well, this puppy takes toast-- stupid, simple toast- to a new level.

It toasts all the way through.  No burnt outside with doughy insides.  It's almost melba toast.  Perfectly crunchy.

I've never enjoyed toast as much in my life.

I broiled fish- PERFECT.  It took all of 7 minutes.

I made garlic bread.  Again, perfect.  All the pieces were uniform- no extra crispy ones depending on where they were.

We baked cookies.  No dark bottoms.  Even, crisp, perfect cookies.

It also can bake a frozen pizza.  This should make life easy for babysitters. 

My mother-in-law isn't getting her hands on this!
It does it all!  I love the countdown timer for toast!

It's easy enough for my 8 year old son Skip to use.  He actually likes it.  It's less scary than the big oven.  You know, the thing in the wall that we haven't turned on in 2 weeks.  I think it's the perfect appliance for single people, couples, families, empty nesters, and retirees.  Yes, that's everyone.

So before the holiday, when you're making your wish list or trying to find the perfect gift, if you or your recipient like to cook, keep these lovely items in mind.  Anything that makes my life a little easier- whether it's improved cooking or easier clean up- is worth it to share with my friends. 

None of these were cheap purchases and I really did think about them for more than 2 years (except the cappuccino maker- we just got tired of coffee grounds in our coffee and it was on sale)! If you cook, you will love them.  If you don't, well, it would be a giant waste of money. 

You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.


Rita said...

I have an appliance addiction too...I am trying to resist the urge to run out to WS now! Too bad I only have 2 feet of counter space not much cabinet space either. My favorite appliance is my VitaMix. Love it! Smooth smoothies and hot soup. Use it all the time.

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