These three small appliances make my life easier!
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I’m protective of my kitchen cabinet and countertop space. I must be convinced something is worth it and I’ll actually use it to try to find any precious space for it. Some small appliances are trendy and just used for one thing, which makes them hard to justify. But others are totally worth it.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of three trendy small appliances I have in my kitchen that I love and use regularly. They are all worth the space they take. All of them are great Christmas gifts (in fact, two were given to me as Christmas gifts!).
Last Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me an air fryer. I’d never heard of air fryers before and wasn’t sure what they were all about. Since she literally writes cookbooks and is all the time coming up with her own recipes, I took her word for it that this was something that would work well. And she was right! We use our air fryer on average of once a week.
Our family likes crispy food, but we are also try to be health conscious. Instead of deep-frying foods like french fries, we opted to bake them. Usually oven-baked fries take a good 25 to 30 minutes to get crispy. The air fryer, though, does it in about 10 to 15 minutes. They come out crispy, but not greasy.
We’ve used it for french fries, sweet potato fries, chicken nuggets, mozzarella sticks, taquitos, tater tots, french toast stick bites and pizza rolls.
I keep the cooking chart from the manual handy, because oftentimes the air fryer instructions are different than what’s on the package as far as temperature and times go.
That said, I also have to tell you how easy the air fryer is to clean. The basket has a non-stick finish and everything easily wipes out of it. I was shocked at how easily it cleaned up the first time we made pizza rolls in it and some of the inner gooeyness leaked out. I thought I’d be scrubbing for a while, but one swipe and it came off. Nice!
The only additional tip I follow is to shake the food about every five minutes like it says to do in the instructions. It really does help the food cook evenly. Otherwise, the top pieces almost burn while the bottom ones stay soggy.
Six years ago, I was incredibly pregnant with my second baby at Christmas and on modified bedrest when my parents gave me a KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer in empire red. I couldn’t wait to use it, but wait I did because of the whole modified bedrest thing. Since then, however, I have had plenty of time to use it. I’ve fallen in love with it and even named it. Based on its beautiful ruby red color, I refer to my stand mixer as Dorothy. My kids talk to her and I make her talk back. I use Dorothy for so many things!
When I asked for a stand mixer, I didn’t even really know all I could and would do with it. I just knew it would help with my baking. Now, I use it to mix all kinds of things like cookie dough, cake batter, muffin batter, brownie batter, cookie bar batter, bread dough and pizza dough. I also use it to easily shred chicken.
Since getting Dorothy, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which makes stirring for a while sometimes painful. Dorothy helps me out!
I had also never made any yeast bread before Dorothy. I decided to give it a try. Dorothy and I have journeyed together to really learn how yeast doughs work and how to best make them. I can now bake homemade yeast bread, rolls and pizza dough easily. This is saying quite a lot for me since I once ruined Hamburger Helper so badly in our early days of marriage that we had to go to McDonald’s for dinner.
I love my stand mixer so much that I couldn’t even bare to pack her for the six months we lived at my parents’ house while our home was being built.
The one potential drawback about the stand mixer is that it is heavy. I leave mine in the corner of my countertop so I’m not lifting it up and down in and out of cabinets. The bowl and attachments are dishwasher safe. I’ve washed them in the dishwasher many times.
You can also buy additional attachments and accessories for these mixers to make homemade pasta and other goodies. I haven’t actually tried any of those, but according to friends and cooking shows they work well.
Last Christmas, Instant Pots were all the rage. A couple of months after Christmas, I found a good price on an Instant Pot Duo Mini. I decided to give it a try. Everyone I had talked with about them had told me the joys of cooking things so quickly in them, but mostly I heard about dishes like pot roast, pork chops and beef. My husband and son won’t eat much meat at all, so I don’t make a lot of meat. I decided that the mini Instant Pot would work well for my family of four since I didn’t plan to cook large meats in it.
The first thing I made was boiled eggs. Seriously, it is awesome for boiled eggs! My Instant Pot takes about 5 minutes to come to pressure for them and then cooks them in 6 minutes. And the shells come off incredibly easy.
Then I decided to try making chicken breasts in it. I hadn’t made them before, because my husband won’t eat them.
I now regularly make chicken in my Instant Pot for my daughter and me. It cooks quickly and if it’s frozen, I don’t even have to thaw it first! I shred it up in my stand mixer and it’s perfect for sandwiches or to add to pasta dishes or whatever. My daughter likes it most with some barbeque sauce or honey mustard (or both!) mixed in and then just eats it with a spoon. The shredded chicken works especially well for her when her teeth are sore from her braces. I send in her hot Thermos for lunch, too.
Pasta is the only thing I’ve tried and not liked in the Instant Pot. The pasta tasted fine, but it seemed like more trouble than it was worth. I ended up with hot pasta water going everywhere and the time it took to come to pressure and cook was pretty comparable to boiling pasta on the stove.
I’m still working on finding additional Instant Pot recipes for my non-meat eaters, but even just for the boiled eggs and chicken, I am happy to find room in my kitchen cabinets for my Instant Pot mini. They’re that easy — and good!
What small appliances do you love?