By February, we MAYBE have a handle on some kitchen habits we can get on board with in the new year. January is for starting fresh, but it’s also for cozy meals, holiday recovery, back-to-school colds, and the existential dread of taking down Christmas decorations that absolutely must be met with a large plate of pasta.
In February, though, it’s ON. More cooking, more learning how to make the most of what we have, some dinners that feel exciting to make instead of boring.
One of the best tricks for meals that feel new is to use appliances you already have to make life easier. We aren’t talking about a 10 hour make your own pasta situation, that’s a different kind of self care.
Here’s something to remember: If things feel easy you will do them more, hands down. So, dust off your blender and let’s get to it. Here are my favorite kitchen appliances and what I use them for.
Move over, New Year smoothie. It’s too cold for you. I prefer to use my blender for savory sauces, like the peanut sauce tofu on page 42. I make a double or even triple batch and use half for the tofu and the rest as a veggie dip or salad dressing for a week or two. It’s a sauce that really lasts, so make the most of your meal prep!
Another great trick: Did you know you can make your own ground spices in a blender? It’s true! Even whole cinnamon sticks will pulverize to powder with a little bit of time, no need to waste the fancy whole spices that you were gifted. I store freshly ground spices in small mason jars labeled with painter’s tape so I can reuse the jars without any stickiness from fancy labels.
Recommended Brand: I adore Blendtec blenders, bonus points that they aren’t excluded from Bed Bath and Beyond coupons. Any high speed blender will work well, although Ninja seems to be amongst the very popular brands that doesn’t work quite as well as advertised.
This entire article could be about things to make in the food processor that are delicious and nourishing. It’s a workhorse of an appliance, and one that you should use often.• 5 minute homemade salsa – no chopping needed• Pesto for the freezer (basil in the summer, kale in the winter)• Energy bites for quick weekday snacks• Soup• Salad Dressing
Another great use for the food processor is to use it to chop veggies. Onion, garlic, carrot, and celery or bell pepper can all be processed together, finely chopped for the base of spaghetti sauce, chili, or soup.
Recommended Brand: Cuisinart and KitchenAid both make great versions, but the KitchenAid food processor parts can go in the dishwasher so….winner, no contest.
Cookies, cakes, bread, and almost any baked good! But, did you know that you can also use your stand mixer to shred cooked chicken for chicken salad or to mash boiled potatoes for a shepherd’s pie?
Attachments for mixers are also becoming more and more common, and I love attachments instead of a separate, say, pasta maker or spiralizer. They take up lots less space in cabinets and many parts can be washed in the dishwasher.
Stand mixer is the gold standard for lots of attachment options – I love it for that reason, and the myriad amazing colors it comes in. Keep an eye out for sales!
Any busy adult knows the value of a lovely slow cooked meal. Did you know, though, that you can make oatmeal, cakes, and baked potatoes in the slow cooker? Using it for ingredients as well as full meals means that your relaxing weekend days can also double as meal prep days!
To slow cook baked potatoes, prick potatoes all over with a fork, then wrap each one in foil. Place several in one or two layers in the bottom of the slow cooker, then cook on low for about 8 hours. Tender, perfect baked potatoes are ready to go for the entire week!
Recommended Brand: There are SO many good slow cooker brands out there! The very basic, affordable models work great, and higher-end options such as from Cuisinart will sear foods before slow cooking for true one pot cooking.
Now, what are we making first?