Minimizing in the Kitchen

Do you ever feel like your kitchen is a place where appliances go to live out their lives in dust-catching ambiguity? Do you question what that is in the cabinet and you’re not sure how to use it?
Over the last year I’ve been cutting back on the amount of “stuff” I own. I found that if I had to have this gadget or that hummamablager, was I really creating foods everyone can enjoy or replicate, or was I just goofing around with technology? Following are the 10 things I own and use on a regular basis. I’m not affiliated with any of these companies, but I love their products and want to recommend them as one option in your overall search.

Ninja Master Prep

No, it won’t kill me in my sleep, but my cheapo Target-purchased Ninja food processor/blender  (you can find them everywhere now), with its two container sizes, blades, and hand held motor make processing food so easy. I use this little gadget for everything from making coleslaw to making frappuccinos, to milkshakes, to dressings, to my gluten free deep dish pizza to even the marinades for my meat dishes. It’ll even make snow for snow cones. I love this little device so much, I sold my other appliances. Why not? It has a smaller footprint and is easy to clean. And for the low price tag, if anything ever happens to mine (it’s been going strong for 2 years of regular use), I’d buy another one in a heartbeat.

Replaced my: Food processor, snow cone machine and blender, a $320 savings.

 

Kitchenaid Stand Mixer/pasta attachment

(Above is actually the grinder attachment which is amazing for making your own ground meats and sausages). The sexiest appliance in the galaxy, this expensive, but sturdy fixture has spent almost 22 years in my kitchen and is running strong. I even have the pasta making attachment which allows me to press low carb noodles made from scratch. I have used the pasta attachment once, but the mixer has served me well over the years.

Replaced my: PlayDough Fun Factory. Face it; those make crappy noodles.

Nesco American Harvest Dehydrator

My dehydrator has more than paid for itself in jerky alone. The ease of use and clean up ensure that I can spend more time enjoying the finished product than rueing the day I had to clean all of the oven racks. It can also be used to make fruit roll ups of the natural variety, but I’ve had bad luck with that thus far. I’d say buy a couple of extra trays if you plan on making jerky in bulk, but don’t go higher than 9 trays, rotating them every so often to ensure proper drying and air flow.

Replaced my: Purchases of expensive jerky and/or hours of cleaning the oven the last time I tried to use it as a dehydrator. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

Waffle Maker

We’re not breading it up over here, but waffle makers still make delicious, sugar free, gluten free waffles, perfect for special occasions. A lot of the makers come cheap (mine was only $20) and offer a secondary set of plates for making other, fun items, like paninis. I use mine maybe once a month, but there’s something about waffles that makes them the high heels of the breakfast world. The brand likely doesn’t matter, but this nonstick waffle maker is good to me so long as I allow adequate heating and cook time.

Replaced my: Nothing, but if you can find an older waffle maker with the flip trays that allow you to make grilled foods on them, you might be able to replace the stove top, at least occasionally. See the Black and Decker below? It has an awesome feature: It folds out flat to give you a griddle, too. Had that been available when I bought, I would have gone for that one.

Donvier Yogurt maker

Ah, the maker of yogurts! When I purchased my yogurt maker, with its beautiful glass cups and lids, I immediately purchased even more glass jars and lids. Why? Because I planned to always have yogurt percolating on the counter. Well, that was the plan anyway. I am still considering  selling this beauty since I’ve had a firm handle on where to buy Greek, plain yogurt. Donvier makes amazing yogurts, but for the amount of gear I purchased to make it and then never do, it might be on its way out–but I’m always a skeptic since stores tend to not carry things on a whim as well…

Replaced my: Many trips to the store to buy yogurt.


Hamilton Beach Crock pots (2)

Two?! Yes, two. It might sound a little OCD, but my crock pots serve different purposes. The Hamilton Beach 6 quart Stay n Go is terrific for meats and big stews and the lid clamps down for travel. My Hamilton Beach 3-in-1 crock pot comes with three bowls in 2, 4, and 6 quart sizes and  is wonderful for cream-based chowders and soups and smaller dishes. The three bowls which makes me sound like some kind of a crockery hoarder, but the bowls come in handy for fruit, potatoes, or even bathing your cat. Not that you’d bathe your cat in your crockpot bowls…

Replaced my: Stove top for cooking and burning half of what I made due to forgetting I had something on the stove. It’s not easy being me… look! A squirrel!

Presto Options Electric Multi-Cooker/Steamer/Deep Fat Frier

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Splatter me with science, I didn’t enjoy frying until I finally broke down and asked for a fryer for Christmas. I spent $30 for my  fryer (it also allows you to use it as a mini crockpot, and I’ve boiled veggies in it, too) and ended up with a great machine. The beauty of the deep fat fryer is its temperature regulation. While I’ve made nice with my thermometers, keeping grease at a constant temperature is a science, and one maybe only Thomas Dolby and Alton Brown will ever understand (and hey, they kind of look alike too).

Replaced my: Extreme splatter messes on the stove, wall, hood and my clothes.

Chef’s Choice 609 Food Slicer

I am a perfectionist. Like an insane, crazy-freaky perfectionist. Couple this with being awful with a knife and disliking huge slabs of beef, and you now understand why a meat slicer was in order. Saving us money on everything from sliced cheeses to meats, this slicer even makes those beautifully thin slices of veggies, perfect for making into chips, au gratin, or even the noodles for lasagna. Cleanup is super easy as well on the model we bought.  For most applications, hubby just wipes down the blade with white vinegar and we’re good to go. As with all of my appliance purchases, I did my research and we bought the Chef’s Choice 609 (I bought the serrated blade, too).

Replaced my: Inept slicing skills and helps me ruin less foods, getting perfect slices every time.

Breville Juice Fountain Plus Juicer

I love my Breville juicer, and I like vegetable and herb juicing. I juice veggies, and will very very rarely, I’ll toss an apple or a pear in there, but for the most part, I go for the nutrient-infused veggies in liquid form when I want to drink my nutrients. It’s especially perfect for those days I don’t feel like chewing celery or carrots but I want a little bit of the pulp and the vitamins. Juicing also makes an amazing base for soups and sauces, so its uses are many. Adding fresh, raw ginger makes almost everything taste that much better.

Replaced my: Great dislike for vegetables into something palatable.

Mr. Coffee 3 Quart Iced Tea Maker

My precious. I’m on my second one because I wore the first one out, and at only $20 for a decent Mr. Coffee iced tea maker from WalMart, you’re spending the cost of coffee filters and the tea itself. I was an avid soda addict for years and find it’s incredibly easy to fall back into that habit. Enter iced tea. Even unsweetened, the kick to my caffeine brain centers makes me almost instantly happier, and the addition to fun, flavored bags make each pot a different, enjoyable experience. Peppermint black tea is my current favorite, but I buy the mixed fruit teas for other options, from pear, to orange, to blueberry and raspberry zinger.Iced tea is also something many people like to drink; I know when we visit friends, they ask us to bring iced tea!

Replaced my: $2/day soda addiction (and that was the cheap stuff; if I drank Zevia, it’d be a $6/day addiction).


 

As you can see, it’s good to research what you buy and stick with what you really need, but that’s not to say it’s not easy to purchase the really exciting, fun gadgets out there! For me, I’ve pared down what I own to ensure that my recipes are able to be replicated by you and your families.

What do you have in your kitchen? What are you thinking of paring down? Share in the comments!

Disclosure: I’m not affiliated with any of these companies; I’m sharing the brand names to get anyone looking for appliance ideas.

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Comments

  1. Carbzilla says:

    Great post! We’re trying to downsize into a condo kitchen so I’m gonna have to start playing Sophie’s Choice with my gadgets. But now I’m thinking I should trade my big crockpot for that 3-in-1, and I really need that iced tea maker. I think it has room in my life if the Soda Stream scoots over.

    • I got the iced tea maker to try and kick my diet cola habit, and it really had helped. I totally know how it is to have a small kitchen, and the 3-in-1 crock pot is wonderful! The only thing are the bowls are perfectly round, so there’s less bottom surface area. That’s one of the reasons I still keep my other 6-quart portable crock.

  2. Even though I’m firmly in the “gimme one good knife, a cutting board & a good mixing bowl, and I’m content” crowd, I have to agree with you about the waffle iron. After both our cheapie Belgian waffle maker and beloved 1950’s era waffle iron died *in the same month* (!!), hubby and I re-invested in a Cuisinart Griddler with the optional Belgian waffle plates. I’m totally in love with it & have carved out a bit of valued real-estate in the cabinet in our kitchen’s main food-prep area. We’re gluten free these days, but hubby still gets his waffles now and then – the Griddler does a lovely job with gluten-free waffles. Paninis made with Oopsie rolls are a favorite of his, too. It was expensive, but well worth it. Highly recommended!

    Mary D.

    • Excellent information. Gosh, how I love the older appliances! I miss my old wafflemaker with the grill plates on the opposite side!

  3. Oh man, I typed this in and I lost it… Here goes again… I make yogurt without one of those gadgets and it is WAY easy! Here’s what I do:

    Get out yogurt (plain, for the starter) • Heat 4 cups whole milk (can use 1/2 & 1/2 for creamier, lower carb!) to about 180-185˚ • Let cool to 90-110˚ (I place my hot milk in a batter bowl and put that in a larger bowl with lots of ice to make this go faster) • Stir in 1 heaping tablespoon yogurt • Blend well • Then I take 8 jelly jars and place them in a towel-lined lasagna-type pan and pour the yogurt-to-be about half-way full in each jar • Place in the oven with oven light on, no heat • Place kitchen towel over the little family and let them have a slumber party overnight, for a total of 15 hours • Lid and refrigerate. Of course, only lid 7, because you will want to eat the 8th one right away… YUM.

    There you have it. Bam. #1 no store-bought price and #2 no gadget needed! Awesome! ;-)

    • That looks AWESOME, Lauren! And it looks easy. I am going to try that and report back. My recipe I’d been using also incorporated nonfat dry milk and I hate nonfat dry milk.

  4. Oh yeah, I also have sent the “I need a food dehydrator and can’t live without one” text to my hubby this morning… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to buy one, but never do. You’ve convinced me!

    • Be sure to check craigslist for gently used ones. You’ll often get it for a very reasonable price, and often with the extra trays!

  5. I just purchased a spirooli online the thing that makes noodles out of veggies. lol & it can make different cuts of veggies. I haven’t gotten it yet so I’ll have to let you know if it’s a can’t live w/o item. I love the idea of having veggie noodles that actually LOOK like noodles. hah & slicing veggies really thin for chips etc. I bought a dehydrator tried it once and has been stored since. I need to drag it out & figure out what to do with it. Same with the slicer. I also purchased one of those. I love my Cuisinart processor but it is SO heavy!

    • I was *this* close to buying a spirooli machine, so you have got to let me know what you think about yours! For the dehydrator, I wonder if you could make crunchy noodles for your ethnic dishes? I make a lot of hamburger jerky, and it is really nice, since you control the flavors.

  6. My go-to gadgets in the kitchen are the Kitchen-Aid Stand Mixer (also with pasta attachment that I’ve never used, but will someday!!), Cuisinart waffle iron, Cuisinart Egg Cooker (PERFECT hard boiled eggs every time!!) and my crock pot. Would love to have a Soda Stream someday, too!! Thanks for sharing your best gadgets!

    • I love your gadgets, too! I have been tempted by the Soda Stream, but I keep wondering what will happen someday when they discontinue and I still need fizzy goodness. Of course, that won’t be for years!

  7. I love my kitchenaid mixer! I got the ice cream maker attachment/bowl for Christmas and have been making and saving money on homemade icecream!

    I don’t have a crock-pot, per se, but a “slow cooker”. The model I have also has a griddle. I’ve had it since 97 and it’s perfect. I even used it when I lived in the college dorm, because I could legally cook on it since it was electric and didn’t have an open flame or coiled heat sorce. It’s a 2 in one gadget so is perfect for small spaces! I can make pancakes in the morning on the griddle, then throw a roast or chilli in the slow cooker in the afternoon! Mine isn’t this fancy, but its similar: http://images.search.yahoo.com/images/view?back=http%3A%2F%2Fsearch.yahoo.com%2Fsearch%3Fei%3DUTF-8%26p%3Dslow%2Bcooker%2Bgriddle&w=160&h=114&imgurl=www.bing.com%2Fimages%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dslow%2Bcooker%2Bgriddle%23focal%3D5f3e3fbbc2d49d10cc537cae79812675%26furl%3Dhttp%253a%252f%252fs7d5.scene7.com%252fis%252fimage%252fbluestembrands%252f4NW0900000010_VA_999&size=&name=search&rcurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bing.com%2Fimages%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dslow%2Bcooker%2Bgriddle%23focal%3D5f3e3fbbc2d49d10cc537cae79812675%26furl%3Dhttp%253a%252f%252fs7d5.scene7.com%252fis%252fimage%252fbluestembrands%252f4NW0900000010_VA_999&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bing.com%2Fimages%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dslow%2Bcooker%2Bgriddle%23focal%3D5f3e3fbbc2d49d10cc537cae79812675%26furl%3Dhttp%253a%252f%252fs7d5.scene7.com%252fis%252fimage%252fbluestembrands%252f4NW0900000010_VA_999&p=slow+cooker+griddle&type=&no=2&tt=115&oid=http%3A%2F%2Fts1.mm.bing.net%2Fimages%2Fthumbnail.aspx%3Fq%3D4747846332317736%26id%3De35745a3c6beac771871eb8df3220daf%26index%3Dnewexp&tit=West+Bend+Slow+Cooker+and+Mini+Griddle&sigr=15l8t3tal&sigi=15e10g63n&sigb=11t6jn6v4&fr=yfp-t-521

  8. I have the newer Ninja 1100! No handle held for me. Small base(footprint), 2 containers, 1 – 40 oz, 1 – 72 oz. Each has its own blades, 2 doubles for the bowl, and 3 doubles for the drink mixer. I use it every day. Even used it to make cookie dough for Christmas last year. Have my crock pot but may get rid of it for a smaller one, I live alone. I had a Black and Decker waffle maker/griddle but lost it in a move. I think I’ll go thrift shop hunting soon to replace that.
    I love my toaster oven! Haven’t even used my big oven yet, have had it for 4 yrs now. Can’t live without my Emerson 1100 watt microwave!!! It has ever setting imaginable. It even grills!!!!
    I use a Sunbeam hand mixer I picked up for $5.00 at a thrift shop. Have had it for 9 years now.
    What do I want? Easy – a dehydrator, a juicer, and smaller jars for my Ninja!
    As for deep frying, I have my mother’s 3 qt deep stainless steel Revereware pot. Yup, I dumped a 3# can of Crisco into it and use a thermometer to fry chicken like my mother did. I love it and don’t really want an electric one; just like I would never use and electric Wok!

    • I love finding treasures in the thrift store! Let me know what you score.

    • Wasn’t able to score a waffle iron in thrift shops. Finally bought a Rival 2 waffle iron for $13.00. Also have acquired a Nesco square dehydrator, and a Magic Bullet with its own blender bowl and juicer. Seems my kitchen is now complete!
      Oh, yeah, I also replaced my Black and Decker toaster oven. It just wasn’t big enough. My replacement is an Oster Convection Toaster Oven from Walmart(just like the waffle iron), and was less than $100.00! It can bake a 16″ diameter pizza. The footprint if a “bit” bigger than the B & D.

  9. G day Jamie,

    I have, and have had numerous over the years due to over seas moves, a Kitchenaide Mixer I cannot live without.
    I have a lovely griddle which I absolutely adore! Great for making pancakes when the grandkids visit as well as making Breakfast for Dinner with Eggs, Hashbrowns and “Bacon” all cooking at the same time, and Reubens are a breeze on the griddle!
    I also have a slicer that I used to use all the time when I was making my own bread.
    I have a 12-cup food processor that I love for grating a kilo of cheese which then goes into a freezer bag so I don’t have to a) pay heaps for pre shredded cheeses b) haul out a grater every time I need grated cheese.
    Cheers,
    Sonte

  10. I make Ice coffee in my ice tea maker. My cousin was upset when she saw my ice coffee made from home and said she wanted a ice coffee maker as well. I told her I made it in a ice tea maker (which I know she has) and she tossed a book at me! Never thought of doing that. Funny cousin……
    Great post.

  11. I’ve considered the Ninja but I doubt it will replace my 14-cup Cuisinart food processor, which is crucial for our annual Chanukah party where I shred 5# each of potatoes and zukes. I also buy and process and freeze 3# of onions at a time, instead of chopping an onion a day and having to clean a Ninja for that every day. Also great for making a lb of fauxtatoes at a time, for pureeing soups.

    Now the slicer would be great, do you keep it on the counter all the time? Looks bulky,

    I make a pot of herbal tea every day… in my coffee-maker. Throw a tea-bag (yes ONE makes a pot!) in the carafe and run water through, as if for coffee. The plus is that when we are entertaining and want to make coffee, I can. One machine for both uses.

    Mary, is that in a gas oven?

    Bought a used waffle maker 14 years ago when I started LCing, but haven’t used it much the last decade.

    I gave away my dehydrator to a friend who now makes and sells the most exquisite beef jerky ever. He makes it to my specs and if anyone wants his eddress, let me know. BTW, I experimented with using that plastic disk to make fruit leather and found that combining the fruit with some gelatin and yogurt made wonderful fruit leather, add AS if you want it sweeter. You won’t taste or see the yogurt.

    I love my FryDaddy, has lasted for years. DH bought a table-top turkey fryer… now that’s a toy!

    • I definitely keep the slicer on the counter at all times. For us, if I move it off of the counter, it might get buried in a cabinet! Or we forget we have it. lol I agree that for you, a 14 cup processor makes a lot of sense for that many people on holidays.

  12. I absolutely love my Cuisinart Ice cream Maker. So very easy. So very good.

    Sandi
    Lafayette, La

  13. I worship at the Vitamix alter. There is nothing so fabulous nor more used. Also, swear by the Jura Capresso Coffee maker. Does instant hot water count as a must have? I need it to make flax meal and protien powder hot ‘cereal’ in the AM before my brain has engaged.
    THe big and little KitchenAid mixers stand at a attention next to each other longing for me to use them more often.
    Cuisinart Ice Cream maker- its my ‘cheat’ =)

    • This’ll make you roll your eyes! My mom passed away a year and a half ago and one of her gadgets I got was one of her two Vitamixes. It has cookbooks, but the how-to manual is on two videotapes. Hey, I haven’t had a VCR in years! And no one I know has one and can show me how to use it. That’s my excuse for it sitting on my sideboard untouched for over a year. Yes, I guess i COULD look it up on YouTube. Not sure what I would use it for… I use a coffee grinder for my flax seed and the Cuisinart FP or blender for everything else. My mom juiced.. I do not. Your thoughts?

  14. My newest kitchen gizmo is called Yonannas. It makes soft serve ice cream out of frozen fruit, without the sugar and artificial junk!!

    • My Ninja 1100 can also. I have it for breakfast every morning.
      Use 1/2 cup 1/2 & 1/2
      1 scoop protein powder
      8 – 10 frozen strawberries
      1 tsp Stevia
      First pulse it several times to mash up berries
      Then set on ice crush for about 1 min
      Finally set on blend for 1 min
      Fabulous firm soft serve ice cream – all natural!

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