Tag Archives: Cuisinart

New Cooking Tools: A Busy Mom’s Best Friend

9 Sep

RIP old friend

The Loss of a Few Trusted Old Friends

Two years ago, my toaster oven died and I didn’t have the funds to replace it, so we began using the oven for our toast in the morning. We found it worked just fine as long as you kept an eye on the toast and remembered to flip it.  I had loved using my toaster oven in the summer for baking fish and other foods. It kept the heat in the house down and it did a great job at keeping the fish juicy too!  I’ve improvised without it for the last two years.

Then, last year, unexpectedly, as I was making a beautiful tomatillo sauce in my Cuisinart Classic Pro, I heard this VERY BAD sound in my processor, like metallic ricocheting off the sides of the bowl, as the blade in my processor whirred. I immediately stopped processing and found that a small chunk of metal had come off the blade and was being whipped around in my sauce. The blade and the sauce both went in the trash. When I contacted Cuisinart about it, they said they’d never heard of someone having a problem like this and that I could PURCHASE a new blade in their online store (the machine was like 10 to 13 years old and I didn’t even remember where I bought it, let alone had a receipt.)

A replacement blade was $40 a pop, but a new Cuisinart in the same model was selling for $89 on Amazon — but, I just couldn’t do it. I’d wait until I could afford a new machine (especially when pleas to Cuisnart’s marketing department for a partnership with my blog fell on deaf ears.)

So I began using my $10 blender for sauces and soups. At first,  everything seemed fine, I could still use my old Cuisinart to grate cheese, shred potatoes for hash browns and slice veggies — that is, until, rather suddenly, one day a big chunk of plastic to the locking mechanism on the machine’s lid flew off as it was grating some cheddar. The machine immediately stopped and so did my dreams of fast, easy cooking. I could not afford to replace the machine at the time. I was smack dab in the middle of launching my own writing business, in the most competitive writing market ever and the worst economy since the depression. Convenience was a luxury my family could NOT afford.

My third birthday with the cake my momma made.

The Cooking Lesson

What I learned from this experience is that poverty is something that can keep your cooking lean, mean and unpretentious. I grew up poor. My mom used the same dented, banged up and chipped pans and bowls my entire childhood. She never knew anything about Henkels or Wusthof knives, she didn’t use specialty avocado tools like those made by OXO, she didn’t own a food processor or an ice cream maker. There were no ricers, salad spinners or meat grinders.

My mother rolled and cut her homemade egg noodles by hand and then hung them on string throughout the house to let them air dry. The fanciest tool in her kitchen was an old stainless steel french fry cutter she picked up at an antique store around the corner from our apartment. She had only four cookbooks to her name — 2 classics (one of these a Betty Crocker), 2 obscure (including one that was just a collection of army wives’ recipes from my dad’s troop in Germany).

None of it mattered — what she didn’t have in tools, she made up for in tenacity, skill, love for her family and her love for cooking. Her repertoire included many Mexican favorites (she grew up in Los Alamitos, California) like chile rellanos and enchiladas, as well as dishes like lasagna, fried chicken, chicken fried steak, eggplant parmigiana, chicken and dumplings (with those homemade egg noodles) and dark chocolate satin pie (I swear, I requested this for my birthday every year for like 10 years!)

My mom’s kitchen tools may not have been worthy of the likes of Gordon Ramsay, but they made great meals, just the same.

Without the fancy doohickeys and time-saving devices, you learn how to cut, grate, chop and pulverize with much more efficiency — real chef skills. You learn that even a $10 blender can help take the place of a $150 food processor for soup,  sauce, and quinoa cupcake batter and that a cute and willing hubby can grate cheese just as fast.

My new baby!

Tickled Pink: Welcome Home New Besties

Still, when I received my advance for the book I’m working on, among the first purchases I made were those to replace these kitchen convenience items. After much research (looking at competing brands, reading reviews and talking to fellow food bloggers) I PURCHASED the new Cuisinart 12 cup Elite food processor in hot pink, the matching blender, and a Cuisinart toaster/convection oven.

I didn’t set out to buy Cuisinart again but when the feedback you get is this resounding (and the color is so sassy!) you just have to go for it. The great thing about the fact that I purchased these myself is that my readers (you guys) will know with 100% certainty that I have no feelings of obligation towards this brand and that over the course of the time that I use these on my blog — I will give you the straight dope on whether the purchases were worth it or not (so far it’s been bliss.)

Mama’s lil helper

Mama Needs a Little Help in the Kitchen

Why’d I go back to the tools? Because, when you’re busy juggling it all — a little help and a little speed are a welcome reprieve.  But the lessons I learned by first not having, then having and losing, will remain with me as a cook. They are the same lessons I take with me in life:

  • You can do a lot with a little
  • With a little ingenuity, a dash of commitment and fueled by love you can make magic happen
  • It’s not the tools, it’s the heart
  • Money can buy ease and convenience but not true joy

Tell me what your favorite tool in the kitchen is and what you love to make with it in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Cooking!

It’s mate. . .

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Holiday Gift Ideas for Cooks: Cookbooks,Cusinarts & Cool stuff

20 Dec

Each year, as I get a little older, I find my must-have list waning. When people ask me what I want, I usually tell them something homemade — a card, a story, a scrumptious treat, a song written just for me (thanks hon!) I’m pretty easy to please. But I was thinking, that if someone really wanted to spend money on me (like my mother-in-law likes to — Thanks Gigi!) most times, the things I come up with are the essentials (a new bra or a new blade for my Cuisinart) which can be boring for the purchaser. (Hmph.)

Shadow family in Maryland Christmas snow

When my hubby gives me gifts, he knows I’m a sucker for the hand-drawn cards he gives and the sentimental photo items he makes me (our “bear family” and “shadow family” series, a video slideshow of my son’s birth, a special photo album of our trip to California, when my son met my grandmother.)  He also knows that he can never lose with music and  books.

Years ago, when I left my ex, I took only my clothes, photos, books and CDs. In fact, books and CDs were, really, the only things I was willing to fight for and as a result, he got everything else (the house, the car, the furniture, the dog and cat, my favorite poster of Paris, that I hand-carried back from the La Ville-Lumière — the city of lights — I mean EVERYTHING else!)

Well, everything else — but my pans! (Now, I sound like Steve Martin‘s Jerk, don’t I?– “That’s all I need the ashtray, the paddle game and this remote control.”)

But, YES! I kept my stainless steel, Cuisinart pans and most of the other big cooking equipment (it was clearly mine, as he didn’t really cook.) It’s a decision, I’m glad I made, each and every time I use them. Which got me to thinking, as a cook, what’s your most treasured cooking utensil or kitchen tool?

LOVE these pans -- especially, the deep skillet for Bolognese

My food processor is a must-have. I realized this recently, when my “S” blade broke and I was forced to start using my $10 cheapo blender for sauces and soups and I’ve had to resort to hand-chopping for everything else.  (Which, for a busy working mom who likes to serve her family whole, healthful foods — is a total pain!) I haven’t, yet, been able to afford to replace it ($40 for the replacement blade! Yikes!) But — Hey! — ‘Tis the season, right? Maybe . . .

Dreaming of Cuisinart Claus. . .

Dear Cuisinart Claus — if you’re listening, I’d love to review any of the new food processors you’d like to send my way, here on the blog (–and maybe one to give one away to a loyal reader?!) I’ve had my eye on the New Elite Collection 14-cup with three nesting bowls  (Yowza!)

Anyway, the point is, that there are things you love, no matter how simply you live or how anti-materialism you are — that aid you in the guilty pleasures of cooking. This is why I have compiled a quick list of some of the coolest cooking-related goodies this holiday season. Things, I think, are just fabulous for the cook in your life.

It’s important to note that, as with everything I talk about on this blog, I have NOT be paid for endorsing any of these products, these are my true opinions. If any products were given to me for review, it is noted.

AWESOME COOKBOOKS

Simply heaven ~ Simply Truffles

Simply Truffles:

Recipes and Stories That Capture the Essence of the Black Diamond By Patricia Wells

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book (courtesy of Morrow) and it is truly delightful. If looking at blogs like mine is considered food porn, then Wells’ book is the more high-brow but no less exciting counterpart of food erotica. This is a book that upon opening it, I quickly closed it again, knowing that I could NOT just flip through it like my normal cookbook perusal.

No, this required something special:  a warm bath filled with lavender Epsom salts, a lemon verbena and lavender scented candle, a glass of Sangiovese and chunk of dark chocolate later, I was soaking my cares away while dreaming of the French countryside and nibbling (in my fantasy) on truffle soaked eggs while drinking in the rich history of truffles, which Wells’ makes highly palatable. This book feels truly decadent — even if you never make a single recipe from it. (Though I intend to.) Loads of tips and tricks for black truffle use, including how to get the most out of it and even substitutions for the truffle impaired. I confess, I am in love with this book!

Off the Menu is Off the Hook!

Off the Menu: Staff Meals from America’s Top Restaurants by Marissa Guggiana

This was also an advance copy, that I received for a book review column called Great Reads in Portland Woman Magazine. Usually, I’m reviewing novels for them but getting to review this gem was areal treat. Because I have a review coming out in the next edition (coming soon) I’ll be brief. Off the Menu takes you behind the scenes to the meals that the staff at some of the country’s finest restaurants eat. HINT: You’ll be surprised at what’s cooking at some of these places. BONUS: PORTLAND READERS: 3 of our best restaurants are featured here including Paley’s Place. . .which brings me to. . .

The Paleys have a Place both in my kitchen and my heart.

The Paley’s Place Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from the Pacific Northwest by Vitaly and Kimberly Paley with Robert Reynolds

I’ve mentioned this cookbook here on the blog before and with good reason — it is fantastic. Simple ingredients, masterful preparations with step-by-step easy to execute instructions, great for any level. Paley’s builds on the beauty of fresh, seasonal ingredients (don’t let the section on where to order elk daunt you) by adding subtle but flavorful flourishes throughout (like keeping Persillade on hand) and techniques that once learned, can be carried with you to the book’s end and beyond. My goal is to one day cook everything in this book and I’m well on my way — that is, if I could just stop making the bacon crusted razor clams with basil aioli.

Kitchen Gadgetry & Fun

Sometimes it’s not the tools you need but the tools that make cooking even more fun that float your boat — this is how I feel about Fred (Hint, hint Fred — I could use some swag over here!) They have some totally unnecessary stuff (French Toast Paris toast stamp and the Cakewich pan) that cracks me up and some completely necessary and useful cooking and kitchen clean-up tools that are way too cute to boot!

Like:

NinjaBread Men

Thanks to Shelby over at Diabetic Foodie for showing me these!

 

 

M-Cups

Russian nesting doll measuring cups — available in red for a limited time! I adore Russian nesting dolls and would LOVE to get a set of these — maybe your foodie would too!

Happy Holidays!