October 7, 2011

Small Appliances I Have Known & Loved

Trying to figure out the arrangement of my kitchen cabinets is forcing me to make some decisions about various items and what to do them. I'm not especially enamored with gizmos and gadgets. I don't have a lot of so called time saving devices in my kitchen (which, I think, often take more time to clean up than are worth the trouble.) I do have a few items however, small appliances, that I use a lot. So much so that I've taken them for granted because now that they are all falling into various states of disrepair, I really miss them.

The three I particularly like and miss, are my Kitchen Aid mixer, my toaster oven, and my bread machine.

Stock online photo of a
Kitchen Aid mixer
My mixer is over 8 years old. Ever since I lost the paddle to my bread machine, I've been using my Kitchen Aid for kneading bread dough. I use it occasionally for cake batter, whipped cream, or egg whites for meringue. Batters aren't much trouble to mix batters by hand, but whipped cream and egg whites are another matter. Plus, the dough hook frees my hands for other tasks, and does a much better job of developing the gluten.

The problem? The motor. It won't turn the mixing arm. A new mixer would cost $200 - $300, which isn't in the budget at present.

Now, I do have one of these....

Egg beater

.... an old handheld egg beater. And I do use it, but it works best for eggs. Anything thicker binds the beaters. Fortunately Dan found a place to buy Kitchen Aid replacement parts, so perhaps my mixer is one small appliance I won't have to do without.

My old Breadman Ultimate
My bread machine is an 8 year old Breadman Ultimate. For it's age, it's held up amazing well. In fact, I used to go through a bread machine a year, even my Zojirushi! This one though, has held up admirably. After losing the kneading paddle I still use the bake cycle for baking loaves of bread.

Eventually I found the paddle when I was putting compost on the garden last year. Now that my mixer is kaput, I really need to see if the old Breadman is up to the task of kneading these days. If not, I have my eye on a Panasonic SD-YD250 .

But why get a new bread machine at all? I can still knead by hand after all. True, but what I really like it for is the bake cycle. It takes a whole lot less energy to use, and in the summer especially, it doesn't heat up the kitchen like baking in the big stove. Plus, I can keep it in the summer kitchen so even the little bit of heat it generates stays outside. In the winter, I'll bake bread in my wood cookstove gladly. The disadvantage to a bread machine, is that it makes only one loaf at a time. Fortunately it's no trouble to bake a loaf daily if needed.

My old Euro-Pro has seen better days
The third small appliance I absolutely love is my toaster oven. Not only does it make toast, but it bakes as well. I've used it for small cakes, muffins, meat, casseroles. It's perfect when cooking for just the two of us. I admit I wasn't much impressed with the convection feature (fan now dead anyway). This didn't actually seem to cook the food any faster, but I'm sure eliminated hot spots, so is probably a good thing. Now, the oven's upper heating element has died.

Mine is about 5 years old and the brand, Euro-Pro, is not one I would buy again nor recommend.  It did a fair job, but in accommodating two baking racks, the heating elements are too far from the slices of bread to toast them quickly. After reading endless customer reviews, I'll replace it if I ever can, with the Cuisinart TOB-195 .

The reason I like a toaster oven, is for the same reasons as the bread machine. It's portable so I can move it out of the kitchen in the summer, plus it's more energy efficient than turning on the big oven every time I need to bake a small item for two, or heat up leftovers.

There are a couple of possible alternatives I'd like to try. One is a cob oven. The other is a solar oven. This website (link courtesy of Dani) has loads of excellent DIY solar cooker plans. I've had my eye on the Windshield Shade Solar Funnel Cooker all summer. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find any of those windshield shades. Both a cob and solar oven would have their limitations and wouldn't be for year round use, but would be excellent for outdoor summer cooking. Some day (after the house is done?) Dan hopes to work on a barbeque / smoker / outdoor oven. But as with all things around here, it must await its time.

One small appliance that I do not / will not have, is a microwave oven. They are touted as being time and energy saving, but when our cat Rascal developed feline lymphoma I researched his diet. I learned some things about microwaves that caused me to immediately throw ours out. This is not simply, beware if you have a pacemaker, but what microwaving actually does to the food. Several good articles (if you're interested) are:

Now that I've started working on my kitchen cabinetry plans, I need to make some decisions. I'm working on where things will go, and have to ask myself, do I want to fix or replace these three items, or learn to do without? I like them all for the reasons I mention, especially the energy savings. Still, if we are on route to becoming self-sufficient and all that this implies, why would I want to replace them at all? If we can ever get off grid, these may no longer be practical, depending upon how much of our own electricity we can generate. Then again, considering how far in the future that probably is, even new appliances will probably have worn out by then!


Theresa said...

Leigh, I've found my Panasonic bread machine to be a great one. I use a Black and Decker toaster oven. Inexpensive and does a serviceable job with toast.
I can't imagine that Dan couldn't fix your mixer (wish I had one!) But they do go on sale often at different places. Sometimes Macy's has a good one on them, another place is Kohls
I don't have a microwave either. Never much cared for them in general mostly because for what they do, they take up a lot of space.

Sharon said...

A microwave is the one appliance we didn't replace when we moved. I have been without one now for about a year and a half. The only thing I missed it for was rewarming my coffee! The microwave shelf will be removed when we renovate our kitchen.

I don't have a food processor or blender, but a friend just told me that there's a Kitchen Aid on sale at Walmart this week. There's about $100 savings, so maybe it's the right time to buy.

P.S I'd love one of those old egg beaters.

Sharon @ quiltingthefarm.vius.ca

Trixi said...

I love your list! I was so glad to see what you have written about microwaves. I read something similar about 5 yrs. ago and have not had one since. I have been told that I am too paranoid but I think it's just common sense. :)

Tonya Gunn said...

When we lived off grid for over two years we gave away all of our appliances and now that we have our rustic homestead that does have electricity, the only appliances we have acquired is a toaster that was given to us. It remains hidden away except for on special requests and a blender that the owners left behind when we bought our home. The blender gets taken out every so often for smoothies or to blend for soups or canning tomatoes.

Best wishes on you remodeling!

Mama Pea said...

I just love your researching mind! (I can't hold that many facts and figures in my head long enough to compile them as you do!)

Microwave ovens are AWFUL! They change the very chemical composition of all foods put in them. Thinking of babies' bottles of milk being warmed in them makes me cringe. When we eat food that has been mircrowaved the LEAST harmful thing it does to us is that our bodies can't assimilate and/or use the food. The worst is that the foods actually harm our bodily functions.

Leigh said...

Theresa, I read so many good reviews for the Panasonic bread machine. I'm glad to hear you like it too. Do you use your toaster oven for baking? I really like it for heating up leftovers, especially since I don't have a microwave.

Sharon, I agree about the coffee, though actually I missed the microwave a whole lot less than I thought I would. Mostly I like my coffee to stay warm in winter, which is often why you'll find my cup on top of the woodstove!

The Kitchen Aid is the best mixer, IMO. There are attachments for it too, which I've never gotten, but which can do a lot of the same things separate gadgets can do. I do like my blender, though I rarely use it. My blender has a small food processor attachment, but I really like my hand operated King Kutter better.

Mrs. Trixi, that's about the time we got rid of ours too. And since then the evidence is mounting against them, so no need to be paranoid! We may seem a bit odd, but not paranoid. :)

Tonya, I use my blender for smoothies too. It's another appliance, along with my juicer, that I'll keep until it does. Those I might not replace however. For canning, I'd love to have a squeezo! It's on my wish list.

Mama Pea, the reason I blog is to have a place to put the facts and figures because I wouldn't remember them either! LOL When I think of microwaved food I think "nutritionally dead." But you're right about the chemicals leached from plastics and things. I don't understand why this isn't common knowledge. No wonder so many people have so many health problems in this nation.

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

You can absolutely use your solar oven in the coldest months of winter. I have used mine when it was 15 degrees outside with no problem. In fact, sometimes the sun rays are stronger with the reflection off the snow, so dont let that be a deciding factor. They are very well insulated. Also I see they have a new hybrid solar cooker that has a heating element, so if you loose the sun you plug it in to finish the cooking.

Anonymous said...

I love my KA mixer, and use it often, but honestly, I would pick my KA food processor over it if I had to choose. My favorite bread has become the slow-rise, no-knead bread, thus no need (ha ha) to knead with the mixer. It is highly useful for whipping egg whites/cream, but the food processor can do that as well.

And the food processor makes awesome pesto, processes nuts from coarse to butter, is wonderful for flaky pie crust, AND will mix doughs -- although I don't use it for that as mentioned above.

I also highly recommend a good immersion blender. I have a $25 Cuisinart blender which is beyond wonderful for soups, smoothies and can be used for egg whites and whipped cream, etc. even for chopping a few nuts at a time with a little (included) adaptor chopper doo-dad.

Most importantly, it eliminates the need to transport hot soup to the blender or food processor, risking burns. Burns are so dangerous! A hot liquid spilling onto a long sleeve shirt can cause very serious burns. I have seen this (unfortunately) first hand when this happened to someone at a fundraising dinner, and she required skin grafts.

I also have an old fashioned egg beater and LOVE it!

Sherri B. said...

I couldn't be without my Kitchen Aid so I cringed when hearing about your problem. I have a link here for you to see if you have a Kitchen Collection in your area, they are usually in outlet malls. They carry mixers, processors etc.. that are refurbished, not the way you are thinking right now. Any time a Kitchen Aid is returned for any reason, and wrong color is one of the most common, it is sent back to the factory and gone all of the way through, even replacing the plastic parts with metal ones. Before last Christmas I went and purchased one for our Vancouver house in the color I wanted, all of the attatchments. It is the large model with the lift bowl and I paid $199.00! I am looking forward to getting my new Kitchen Aid Processor with the large capacity for $99.00, before the Holidays. Note: If you have one close, go to see what they are offering because the website doesn't show the great deals.

Here is a link to see about your paddle for your bread machine if you haven't already checked this out.

Sorry about the long winded comment. xo

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Leigh, I cannot beleive I just read a whole blog post about kitchen appliances and was ENTRALLED ! Guess I am ready for that full time life of fending for self. But truly how can you even THINK about giving up your Kitchen Aid mixer ? Did you try ebay for used one ? I got used for $69, 11 years ago (because goofy woman selling it didn't like the color as remodeling HER kitchen)

Gingerbreadshouse7 said...

I had my Kitchen Aid or twenty or more years, I use it for making cakes etc. and have the attachment for making sausage with ...I won't be without that one. My Bread machine is about 15 years old, I don't use it often but when the spell hits me I make bread with it...or by hand mostly. I have a few that I like having ..even if not often..

Woolly Bits said...

I like those old non-electrical tools for the kitchen! e.g. there is a little gadget available to make whipped cream, a bit like yours for egg whites, but with a bowl/lid. perfect result, you just need a bit of elbow grease:)) I always wonder who buys stuff like electrical tin openers, egg boilers etc.. ok, if you're disabled, but I think most customers aren't! funny, when the electricity goes, you only have food in tins - and can't open them because the opener doesn't work either:))not sure how many people could open their tins with a screwdriver:))
about the outside bbq - I saw a fantastic idea a little while back : a long wall made of natural stones (the soil is full of them here), wide enough to plant herbs on top. and right beside it, built into the wall a bbq that can be used standing in front of it. perfect - unfortunately I don't have enough space for this - and in our summer bbq's are not really essential, unless you like soup outside:))

CaliforniaGrammy said...

I just bought a refurbished Kitchen Aid mixer and food processor and love them on their website, both appliances for just over $300. I sure hope yours can be repaired. I know about not using plastics in microwave ovens but had no idea about what it actually does to foods. I must research that, indeed! I know what you mean about where to store such things, they can be cumbersome and take up a lot of room. We just installed shelving in our garage right off the kitchen and I call it my "auxiliary pantry" and it's sole purpose is to store those appliances I use occasionally, not on a daily basis.

Good luck in your kitchen cabinet design ... your kitchen is looking so nice!

Laura said...

One thing that I never thought I'd get, but did (at a yard sale for $5) is a stick blender. It's great. I make steak rub in it's little jar, and can puree my pumpkin soup in a jif, unlike the old days taking a few cups at a time into the blender and then another pan.

I'm ambivalent about the microwaves. I have one, I don't use it much.

Someday, I hope to have a KitchenAid mixer...

Nina said...

I was never thrilled with my breadmaker. I find it's easy enough to just toss a couple of loaves in the oven. I don't have a microwave. Last one died and we've never bothered to replace it. My kitchen aid mixer though.. I love that beast. I use it for kneading small amounts of breaddough, large batches of cookies and batters plus those recipes with weird instructions like.. beat eggs for 15 minutes! I still do large batches of bread by hand though.

bspinner said...

You like your toaster oven probably as much as I like my convection oven which is on a seperate stand. I do have a microwave but don't use it that much so like you if something happens to it we won't replace it. I love my Kitchen Aid!! I use it for almost everything that needs to be mixed but not bread dough since I like mixing that my hand. Always fun to read what kind of small appliances everyone else have. Last but not least I love my coffee maker!!

Leigh said...

Jane, thank you for that! Of course, we don't have much snow, and if we do it usually means cloudy weather. I haven't actually looked at commercial models, just a DIY one. Our first winter here we had close to 3 months with no sun. It was so cold and is why we wouldn't consider installing solar. Unless a million bucks dropped into our laps, LOL

Aii, good info. I actually do have an immersion blender packed away somewhere. At least I think I do! I used to use it for making soap.

Sherri, votes for the KA seem nearly unanimous! Thank you for both of the links! Very useful. It turns out the closest Kitchen Collection store is over 50 miles away, but I noticed they have free shipping from their website with orders over $60. I'll have to explore.

Donna, LOL, I've loved reading all the comments too. Great buy for your KA. I think I can get the replacement part for about the same amount. And my DH is a great fixer of things!

Ginny, wow, that's a long time. For both your KA and bread machine. I thought mine were old! Didn't know about the sausage attachment. That sounds like a must get.

Bettina, I agree! When I lived in Louisiana, I was amazed that every one had a rice cooker. Until then I'd never heard of them!

I love the outside BBQ you describe. Sounds like something we might manage. Some day. :)

CAGrammy, good for you! I do think mine can be repaired, it's just a matter of getting the part. Love the idea of an auxiliary pantry. I reckon that's what my pantry room has become. :)

Laura, somewhere I have one of those, though I only have used it for soap making. Love the idea of pureeing soup. I may need to see if I can find mine again. And oh yes, KA is the mixer to get.

Nina, you bring up a good point. I think it's a lot of what we're used to and how we're used to doing it. I've actually gotten to where I don't miss the bread machine as much, but I do love it for baking bread. Or cake. :)

Barb,oh yes on the coffee maker! That's a keeper, though we do have a stove top percolator I'm anxious to try. I'm sure there's an art and science to that, but I don't know what it is. :)

Renee Nefe said...

with the way they are building everything for the dump now days perhaps it would be better to buy older appliances that still work. I know my grandmother's stand mixer was still working and it is probably as old as I am.

chris said...

leigh, you must check out ebay for appliances. there is always some new bride who won't cook trying to unload a wedding gift. i got my son a cuisinart that had been used a couple times for 20.00 + shipping. my bread machine is 25 years old and still going strong. the brand is national but i think they were made by panasonic. bought at williams-sonoma. your kitchen is going to be great. i love function over form.

chris said...

leigh, one more thing, i live in vegas. i'll see if i can find one of those solar sheilds. we all use them here all summer. the season is pretty much over but i'll keep my eyes peeled.

Leigh said...

Renee, I have thought about that numerous times. I know if I ever have to replace my washer and dryer, it definitely won't be with new. I've gotten some good suggestions for used resources, so I will definitely check those out.

Chris, I hadn't thought about ebay. I will have to keep my eye on that. Good point about gifted items. While I love my toaster oven and bread machine, I know a lot of folks don't use them. I'm amazed your bread machine is 25 years old! My Breadman is the oldest I've ever had.

Let me know if you run across any of those shields! I'd be happy to reimburse you for the cost plus shipping. Come to think of it, maybe I could find those on ebay as well, LOL.

Anonymous said...

Great thoughts Leigh....I have an inexpensive Sunbeam stand mixer I bought at Walmart for $80. While it isn't a KitchenAid, it does the trick to do the bulk of kneading for me when making bread. With my wonky arm, I need all the help I can get. It does require a bit of babysitting though, because the dough will climb the dough hooks (it doesn't have a paddle).
I used to have a bread machine, but didn't like the perfectly square loaves it made...would definitely love to have one that made a normal looking loaf of bread, if the budget ever allows.
One thing I am planning to save my pennies for is an off grid mixer like the Little Dutch Maid Hand Crank Mixer, but they are super pricey.

Leigh said...

Stephanie, I'd not heard of a hand crank mixer, thank you for that! Whew are they ever expensive though. $469 from Cottage Craft Works and $650 from Lehmans.

It's true about the bread machine loaves. We just make do. And I agree kneading is hard work, especially for someone with arm problems. I think the folks who are happiest, are the ones who figure out what suits their personal needs and go with that. Just like you did. :)