Today I thought instead of looking at a recipe, I figured I would share all the wonders of my two favorite kitchen gadgets. I am still learning how to cook for me (the toothless one) and my husband, the carnivorous and toothy-one. I have found a couple of wonderful kitchen tools that help me to make meals that I can eat (without having to put my whole plate in the blender) and that keep my husband happy. He will eat anything I make, but I would feel bad if every single thing I made was mush, plus I couldn’t stand that either.
My first gadget that is a must have for any household with somebody on a soft (toothless or no chew) diet is simply called a Mix n Chop. The one we have is a pampered chef version, but these gizmos can be found at cooking stores and online. I have seen giant versions of this tool used on some of my favorite cooking shows too. Did you ever wonder how to get ground beef finely smushed for entrees like tacos or spaghetti? Any Mexican restaurant we eat at always seems to have such fine ground beef. I had tried putting it in my little chopper after I had browned it, and the beef just gets this nasty texture that is not appetizing. This little black gadget is the answer. As you can see from the above picture, this little black tool has curved paddle type blades on the bottom. I simply use it to smash up the ground meat in the pot while I am browning it. This allows me to get all the ground meat into smaller than pea size pieces (it also allows me some anger management time ☺). This helps me a ton because then I never get that random grape or almond sized chunk inside my burrito that I have to try to gum to death. This tool is also dishwasher safe, which makes me even happier. I use my smasher friend on ground meats in Mexican food, hamburgers, meatballs, soups and Italian meat sauces. This little tool really has been a game changer for me!
My second essential kitchen gadget is my immersion blender, also known as a stick blender. These little guys are available all over. They can be found locally at places like Target and Kohl’s as well as at high end cooking stores and of course online. There is quite a bit of variation in these tools as far as quality of construction and attachments. This also means there is a lot of variation in price. I have had three of these guys, in the period of about a year. My first one had a plastic base and was very inexpensive. That was not a great investment as the plastic cracked after just a few uses, which allowed soup to get inside the housing and ickyness followed. Version two had several different attachments on the bottom with different blades. The problem with this guy was the place where those attachments clipped on, also did not seal, so there was ick pretty quick on that blender. My current favorite is the Breville (pictured above) and I love it. This one cost a lot more but it is so worth it. It had a plastic bottom lining to protect the coating on my non-stick pots. The whole lower half of this blender is stainless steel and it is all sealed. So no more ick getting into the blender! This version also has different speeds, so I have the ability to very gently blend dessert items, or I can throw down the hammer on pots of stew or pasta sauces. Quick note, immersion blenders do not seem to have the same effect on potatoes as a food processor, so fear not if you are blending a dish with tomatoes.
I could not cook without my immersion blender. It seriously has changed the way that I cook because I can use it in almost any container. I use this tool to blend my veggie soups right in the pot as well as I can slightly blend meat sauces to make them a little more smooth (great for spaghetti sauces with big chunky tomatoes). It is perfect because I control how blended the dish become; I can blend until it is totally smooth, or I can leave some texture and small chunks behind. This tool is also a lifesaver for me on nights when my mouth is just really sore and my gums hurt too much to keep trying to gum that beef stew or pot roast or other dish. I can simply use my immersion blender right in my bowl of stew or on my pot roast, carrots and potatoes and smush it just enough that I can simply swallow the food, but it still has texture and taste and it does not look like baby food. The only drawback is that the blender part is not dishwasher safe, but I will happily hand wash this guy, for all of the help that is has given me!!