What appliance/gadget have you under-appreciated, but now grown to love?
I have three: My little George Foreman grill. Was given it as a gift, and it sat un-opened for years. Gotta say, I love that little thing. Great for grilling up a couple chix. breasts or small steaks, makes really good paninis, hell, I even used it to make french toast when my stove conked out during a brunch. #2: a pressure cooker. Same story; a gift that sat there...then I busted it out and broke it in (after much fear of my mom's exploding chicken dish of my youth....). How did I live without this wonder tool? #3: (And I am embarassed to say this) My Kitchen-Aid stand mixer. A hand-me-down from the folks, lived in my basement because it wouldn't fit under my cabinets. Dragged it up and cut a small notch in the molding under the cupboard so it can slide under now. Can't imagine making bread, pasta dough, cookies, cakes without it. Have also added the pasta roller attachment and the meat grinder. Nothing like a fresh ground burger on a home-made yeasty bun.....mmmmm! What gadget or appliance have you treated like a poor relation, that you have now grown to love? Adam
Definitely the Crock-Pot. I resisted for years upon years, even regifting one that I received. I thought that I should be around something more active, exciting, like the burner flame...no tame-crock-pot-person I! . A friend of mine finally foisted one on me and told me to TRY it or ELSE. Now I love it. Makes a huge difference when busy. I had to eat a heapin' helpin' of slow-cooked crow, but I use this regularly now. Cay
Rice cooker. Got it as a gift. Sat in the corner of my small apt. kitchen in the box for 2 years. Moved to a house, decided it was time to try it out. Use it at least 2 or 3 times a week. Love it!
I got to say I am another one to neglect my Kitchen Aid mixer. I bought it new for <$150 and let it sit under the counter. It was more or less the lack of counter space and breaking it down that kept it from being used. (breaking it down was to remove the motor assembly from the base. It was too tall to fit anyplace otherwise)
Then out of the blue I got me a Duke SS worktable 30"x36" and de-mothballed it. The table has an under-shelf that it can be placed RTU at a moments notice.
I'll bite. #1 has to be the small electric oven that came with SO. Like her, it's an amazing little cookin' unit. Why heat up the whole oven when this thing will convection cook two cornish game hens or two pieces of toast. I use it more than my grill!
#2 Mixer. This is Oster's "do all" contraption of 15 (?) years ago. It is my blender, which I always used, but now I use the dough hooks and let it do the bread kneading.
#3 Diamond knife sharpener. This may seem like an odd entry, but with this tool I can sharpen all my knives where they will (almost literally), fall through a tomato. This is just a basic one, too (Smith, I think), from REI; not a fancy schmanzy one. I used to use basic stones. Never again. Now I'm shopping for a Pro model.
#4 (Perhaps will be disqualified) Conundrum of Computer, the internet and cookbooks. Let's say that in the last five years, between SOAR (which I've used for many years), and finding Chowhound five years ago, my cooking has soared. Cookbooks became reference tools when all else failed; yet Chowhound's COTM (Cookbook of the month) forum has been inspiring me to pull out the books in the kitchen and start studying again. Then there's MasterCook, where I store everything (oops, lets call it #4.1 or #5), that I've found on the internet or in the paper or magazine. Very handy reference. I can just set up the laptop on the kitchen counter and have at it.
I'd say it was the hand-me-down food processor my mom gave me years ago. It was around the time I got married, and I wasn't that interested in cooking yet. (I did, but it was just something I had to do, not something I particularly enjoyed.) I was also starting behind the eight ball with the thing because my mom gave it to me with the admonishment that "this thing is a total pain in the neck to use and clean!" Not much incentive there. I finally dragged it out one year when I had to process a lot of highly seasoned ground meat for meatballs for a holiday gathering. I fell in love and used that beast for years (I think it was a Cuisinart, but so old that the bowl was offset from the motor.) I finally bought a new one when I got tired of wrestling with the thing to get the lid off, which was constantly getting stuck. I love my Kitchen Aid FP and use it all the time.
For me it is the microwave. I never thought I needed one nor did I think it was worth giving up what little counter space I have, boy was I wrong. My bf's Mother came to visit us and she stayed for almost a month, well she could not live w/o a microwave so she was kind enough to buy us one. Now I defrost everything in the microwave, I also use it to reheat and cook, something that is very helpful living in a warm climate in the summer. Another product that has surprised me is the crock-pot. I received one as a gift and I thought I would only use it at our Super Bowl party, but I have made an effort to use it and have been pleasantly surprised. Last night I made a great soup with very little effort, and since it is getting cooler I am looking for new recipes. I am thinking my next purchase might be either a toaster-oven or the Cuisinart Griddler.
Definitely, my bread machine. Wasn't very fond of the bread it turned out. Then I "discovered" the dough cycle. Prepared in the machine, the dough for Foccacia, Pita, Bread Sticks, Rolls, Pretzels, and, Zopf (one of my favorites) was easy and MUCH better when hand formed and baked in the oven on my Fibrament baking stone. The biggest thing though has been my pizza. Perfect dough every time with none of the kneading hassles. Now, I love my bread machine.
Pizza cutter, wheel type.
I never bothered buying one until I saw the Kitchenaid one, which came close enough to my "ideal" that I bought it (screw to remove the blade, sharpenable blade, dishwasher safe, sealed handle, easy to clean).
Pizza? Bah. Childs play. Once I had one I realized just how many other cutting jobs it's useful for. Quesadillas, brownies, dough (pie crust circles, wheee!) , noodles, paper and cardboard (no, really!)...basically anything flat where you'd normally drag a knife through it. Repeated rollings will let you mince things too. Considering all the differently shaped knives I already have, I'm surprised I never went out of my way to find a circular knife.. aka pizza cutter.
And man, if Shun ever makes a pizza cutter, I'm going to be the first in line.
1. FP Dishwasher Drawer. It was a Chrismas present last year. Prior to then, I rarely used a dishwasher; now, I use it almost everyday. Perfect size for me & Mr OCAnn.
2. Egg slicer. I use it now for small veggies like mushrooms & olives for my salad.