I'm doing my best to not feel the need for a dehydrator or the speedy ice pop maker. Wish me luck in holding out. This post is about which of those gadgets I have bought over the past few years that have really made an impact in my role as "Mom" and why. Each item has a link to Amazon if you want to review or buy. Enjoy!
1) The Salad Chopper
I went to Costco this week and came home with more than intended (surprise). My fridge was loaded with organic chicken strips, edamame beans, shrimp cocktail, guacamole and strawberries. I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner when it occurred to me that all of those ingredients would be really good in a salad; a chopped salad.
When the kids were around 4 and 2, I used to make them a chopped salad with corn, black beans, avocado, etc. and served it with ranch dressing. Honestly, that is how I got them to eat salad back then, I think because it was chopped and easier to eat. The could actually spear it with a fork.
Lately, I'd felt like I was in a rut so one night last week became "Chop Chop" night. I set up the "salad bar" with my ingredients and asked the kids to come to the Chop Chop restaurant. Although my son (almost 7) did not find my wit so witty, my 5 year old loved it. I put the ingredients in a bowl, added their favorite dressing, Brianna's Poppyseed, and began chopping. This utensil sort of scoops the food and then chops it between two blades. I did the same for my daughter and then made one for myself. Yummy!
The next day, she asked for another one for lunch. Hmm, maybe operation Chop Chop was a success! If you asked me 7 years ago if I thought my kids would eat salad, my answer would be no. Here's proof not to assume anything about your kid's eating habits. So #1 on the list is a salad chopper. Feel free to call it a Chop Chop and/or say that's what's for dinner. Please let me know if it works!
2) The Cuisinart
Notice I don't call it "a" Cuisinart. I have used lots of different food processors; this one is always the best. Here are 5 reasons why this is a must have: pesto, baby food, homemade coleslaw, pie crust and hummus. There are undoubtedly another 5-10 I could rattle off; hopefully this is enough to make you interested. You can also wash it in the dishwasher.
I keep mine in a bottom drawer where there is fairly easy access and probably use it about once/week. If you have one, don't let it collect dust. It wants to be your friend! Check my blog for prior posts. I have recipes for all but the slaw and the baby food. The Cuisinart is a must have in my opinion.
3) The Slow Cooker
This is one I fought for a long time. I didn't really think I needed one until I made two things in one weekend: pulled pork and a pot roast. The meat was so tender, juicy and flavorful, I thought I was in heaven. I use it to make a veggie soup with beans (see photo above). Again, hard to believe my kids would eat chard but they do when it's in soup.
For a mom, the benefits are twofold: 1) most children will eat food from a slow cooker because it's moist and flavorful and 2) it's so easy. Do some prep in the morning, push a button and dinner is ready at the end of the day. I use the Rival Crock Pot (that's their name; everything else is a slow cooker) but I don't think they make the same model that I have. Here are the features I think are most important:
- Low and high mode
- Settings in increments of 30-60 minutes (you can decide which mode as well)
- Countdown clock
- Pot that can be washed in the dishwasher
4) Immersion Blender
I know that I already have the Cuisinart on my list but I just can't live without this lovely piece of equipment! Besides the immersion part, the model I have came with a whisk attachment (think fresh whipped cream) and a mini food processor (small batches of pesto or to chop chicken for salad).
The reason the immersion blender gets top billing for moms is that it's one of the best tools for making baby food, pureeing soups, making tomato sauce and creating your own morning shakes.
It's versatile and easy to use. Now that the kids are older, they can hold the top (while I hold the container) and press the button. Kids love to help in the kitchen and since the blade is usually way down in the food, it's fairly safe. Never let them near the blade, though, and make sure to unplug as soon as you are done. Oh, and when you make whipped cream in the little container it comes in, don't let go of the container. I learned that lesson the hard way.
5) Waffle Maker
I used to spend $3-4 for a box of waffles (and that was before we were eating gluten-free) until I discovered this simple, less than $30 tool that not just saved me money but became a lot of fun.
On special mornings or when we have time (usually weekends), I whip up a batch. Any leftovers go into the freezer so they can eat waffles any day of the week. I like to make my own because I can control the ingredients and flavors. My kids love theirs with cinnamon and vanilla; yours might not.
The batter is very forgiving as well. Use this recipe as your base but feel free to experiment. My only advice is to make one batch at a time. You can't always double a recipe with baking powder because the leavening is specific to the amount of flour.
Enjoy this list. I will post another entry with my 5 top foods to make for kids and why. Please leave a comment; I love to hear from my audience.