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This week for Mission: Appliances I pulled out a fairly common appliance, my blender. The thing is, I barely use it! One of those typical wedding gifts, the blender seems to be touted as a necessary gadget in everyone’s kitchen. But as far as I remember, I had only used it once before. Why not? Let’s find out.

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The blender we own is the Black & Decker 48-Ounce Glass-Jar Blender. We received it for our wedding after having registered for it at Target. Now that I look at the reviews for this particular blender on Amazon, I fear we might have made a bad choice! Hopefully our unit doesn’t die like many others supposedly did (according to Amazon reviewers). I guess not all blenders are created equal.

Blender Vital Statistics

  • Brand: Black & Decker
  • Average Price: $50
  • Power: 500 watts
  • Size: 10 X 7 X 14 inches; 9 pounds
  • Features: 48-ounce chip-resistant glass jar, 5 speed settings, plus pulse and ice-crush functions
  • Complexity: Very easy to use
  • Versatility: Blends various foods or beverages
  • Cleaning: Very easy to clean since unit comes apart
  • Storage: Unit can be stored in separate pieces, so is a little easier to fit in tight spaces than other appliances
  • Safety Tips: Blending blades are very sharp
  • Pre-series Location: Inside a tall cupboard only reached with a chair
  • Pre-series Use Level: Used once before

blender

Project Blender

My husband and I really love dessert drinks, so we decided to use our blender to make chocolate milkshakes. Shakes are pretty costly ($3.50 for a 16 oz at Culver’s) so making them at home proves to be very cost effective. Furthermore, we had the ability to choose the ingredients so (we hope) our shakes were a little ‘healthier’ than Culver’s.

After some research on the Internet for milkshake recipes, I created the following recipe that we ultimately used for our own shakes:

2 cups vanilla ice cream
1/3 cup skim milk
4 TBS chocolate syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract

(makes 2 small-medium servings or 1 large serving)
(can add 2 TBS malt powder and/or 2 TBS peanut butter if desired)

blender-ingredients

We put all the ingredients inside the glass jar and began blending. We started with low speeds and worked up to higher speeds gradually. The problem was, we had to continually stop the blender to manually mix our ingredients because they were not blending! Additionally, the motor was beginning to smell because it was being overworked. Hmmmm.

blender-shake

After we finally got everything blending nicely, we enjoyed our milkshakes no doubt. But I’m a little concerned about the performance of the blender unit. If it can’t handle soft ingredients like ice cream and liquids, then how will it handle ice or other solids?

The Verdict

Well, it’s apparent from my analysis that we do not own the best blender on the market. However I hear that really awesome blenders can be quite expensive. All that aside, we still enjoyed great milkshakes, drinks we could not have prepared without the blender. I think in the future we will just have to be more careful about not overworking the motor since we now know that it is pretty sensitive. Not all appliances are perfect, right?

Reader Reflection

What kind of blender do you own? Have you ever had problems with the motor burning?

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Last week when I introduced my new series, Mission: Appliances, I found myself getting very excited! I can’t wait to wipe the dust off my nifty kitchen gadgets and find creative ways to use them. This first week was no exception.

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I decided to kick off the series with one of my simpler appliances, a small food chopper. The one I own is officially the Proctor Silex Food Chopper. It is quite compact, not to mention pretty inexpensive. This particular appliance is one I married into and we think my mother-in-law bought it for my husband as a gift.

Food Chopper Vital Statistics

food-chopper

  • Brand: Proctor-Silex
  • Average Price: $16
  • Capacity: 1.5 cups
  • Size: 8 X 5 X 4 inches
  • Weight: 2 lbs
  • Complexity: Very easy to use
  • Versatility: Can chop bread, crackers, cookies, nuts, veggies, fruits, and herbs
  • Cleaning: Very easy to clean, also dishwasher safe
  • Storage: Stores easily on a shelf or can be left out on the counter
  • Safety Tips: Chopping blade is very sharp
  • Pre-series Location: High cupboard (requires a chair to reach)
  • Pre-series Use Level: Never used

Project Food Chopper

One of the reasons I decided to start with the food chopper was because I had a meal planned last week that required a fair amount of chopping: onions, roasted red peppers, and sun-dried tomatoes. I started with the onions.

food-chopper-onion

Unfortunately you can’t just throw the entire onion in there because it is just too small. The instruction manual said to chop it up into 1-inch pieces. I still consider that a fair amount of leg work on my part, but the chopper did chop A LOT more finely than I ever would.

food-chopper-peppers

These particular red peppers come packaged in a glass bottle because they are roasted and packed in oil. Therefore, you can just throw the whole pieces right into the chopper. I found that the end result would be great for a sauce or even a dip, because the peppers became pretty minced. However, many recipes would probably prefer slightly larger pieces.

food-chopper-tomato

The sun-dried tomatoes were by far the selling point for me. I took them out of the package, threw them in the chopper and after 5 seconds I had a perfect little pile of pieces. In the past, cutting up sun-dried tomatoes was very tedious and slow because of the texture. But the food chopper came through and did a great job!

The Verdict

I really liked using the food chopper overall! It’s small, VERY fast, and easy to clean. I’ve decided to leave it out on the counter for now since putting it on a cupboard shelf only accessible by standing on a chair just means I may never use it. I’m a big stickler when it comes to cluttered kitchen counter tops, but this device is small enough that it doesn’t seem to have an impact on space. My hope is to use it more regularly in the future.

Reader Reflection

Do you own a food chopper? How often do you use it?

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A few weeks ago I was wandering around my kitchen and I had an epiphany! You see, like many people, I have several appliances literally collecting dust in my cupboards due to the fact that they are used so infrequently or have never been used at all.

But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost! Each appliance represents a significant amount of money spent, whether I bought it or it was a gift. And each appliance takes up a huge amount of my precious cupboard space! So what can I do?

I’ve decided to make a commitment to using my appliances more so that they aren’t a waste of money or space in my kitchen. And what better way to accomplish this goal than to blog about it! Mission: Appliances will be my approach to researching and planning new ways to use my appliances, reporting my findings back to the readers, and ultimately making decisions about what to keep and what to simply get rid of.

Today’s Mission: Appliances post will basically be an introduction to all the appliances I currently have on hand. Then each Friday I will feature one appliance that I was (hopefully) able to use creatively that week. And my goal is not only for myself, but I want all of YOU to be able to benefit too! I’m sure I’m not the only one with dusty appliances sitting lonely on the shelf.

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Mission: Appliances – An Inventory

To begin I would like to make a list of all the kitchen appliances I own. To be clear, I’m using the term ‘appliances’ a little loosely to be able to include fancy gadgets that don’t necessary use electricity, but still perform a special cooking function.

I have decided to divide the list into appliances that I actually do use regularly and ones that I almost never use. For the purposes of this series, I only plan to feature appliances I do not use regularly. But first let’s get appliances I use often out of the way.

Appliances I use regularly

  • Refrigerator – Well, of course.
  • Oven – Obviously.
  • Dishwasher – Yes sir.
  • Microwave – Now I’m just getting silly, but I like to be complete.
  • Toaster – We use our toaster almost every day.
  • Coffee maker – While we don’t actually drink coffee, we have this coffee maker for our coffee-loving guests.
  • Rice cooker – Anytime I cook rice (which is fairly often), this is what I use.
  • Bread maker – We have two of these (one was given to us recently by someone who no longer wanted it). My husband loves to make bread.
  • Lettuce spinner – I grow lettuce in the garden and also buy a lot of lettuce during winter. We use this lettuce spinner regularly to wash, dry, and keep lettuce fresh in the refrigerator while we are eating it.
  • Kitchen Aid beaters – While I don’t use these as much as I just use a mixing spoon, I will pull them out occasionally to beat the thick mixes or mixes that require some ‘fluff’ to them.

Appliances I do not use regularly (or not at all!)

  • Food dehydrator – We’ve used this three times total–twice to make beef jerky for vacations and once to dehydrate herbs. I’d like to use it more because it’s pretty nifty.
  • Slow Cooker – We have two of these (large and small) and I actually mainly use them for transporting food to potlucks. I’d like to find more recipes so I can actually use them for cooking. And as we all know, crock pots can be huge time savers in the kitchen!
  • Food processor – I was actually really excited about this appliance when we got it because I wanted to use it for pureeing soups and sauces. But I can honestly say that I have NEVER used it.
  • Food chopper – You’d think I would use a food chopper to speed up the cooking process. Well, I’ve never used it.
  • Blender – Everyone needs a blender, right? I think we’ve used our blender only once.
  • Smoothie maker – I married into this appliance and am curious how it differs from just a plain old blender. We’ve never used it since getting married.
  • Waffle iron – I married into this appliance as well and we’ve used it one time to make chocolate chip waffles. We had a little difficulty. But the idea of having waffles regularly intrigues me because I think waffles are great!
  • George Foreman Grill – The staple of a college student, right? We use this grill rarely for meats. It’s a pain to clean if you ask me. But I’m willing to give it a chance.
  • Electric Indoor Grill – We just bought this grill and actually have been using it regularly so far (I even wrote a review for it here). But I want to try some new recipes so the regular use continues.
  • Partial pressure cooker pots – My husband got a deal on these a few months ago, but I haven’t tried them yet. One of the problems is that I have to learn how to use them. If they do what they claim, then I could save a lot of time in cooking. Stay tuned.
  • Wok – I love Asian cooking, but I am ashamed to say I’ve only used our Wok once! It just seems like a hassle to pull it out of the cupboard when a normal skillet gets the job done.
  • Deep Fat Fryer – We got this for Christmas and I am very excited to use it. However, it remains sealed inside the box.
  • Mandoline Grater/Slicer/Juicer – We also got this for Christmas. I’m not sure exactly what it does, but I am looking forward to finding out.
  • Frosty Treat Maker – This was a hand-me-down mini appliance from my mom. I don’t think we’ve used it. But sounds tasty, doesn’t it?!
  • Double Boiler – My mom gave me this because she had two of them.  I know she uses it for melting chocolate for candy, but I have never used it.

Wow, you sure have a lot of appliances!

Two words: Wedding gifts!

Can I play too?

If you have a kitchen appliance that is not on this list, then I’d love to have you guest post about it in the future! Send me a message if you are interested.

Reader Reflection

Which appliance in your kitchen do you use the least?

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Sound familiar? Perhaps you need to program the clock on your DVD player after a power outage…or maybe you forgot how to use that fancy food processor you received as a gift for your wedding years ago…or perhaps you just need to figure out how change some settings on your bathroom scale. Whatever your need may be, you probably have to consult the instruction manual. But where is it?

When my husband and I moved into our new house after our wedding, I quickly realized that we had many new fancy appliances and electronics that all had their own box complete with a sizable, multi-lingual, and often complicated instruction manual. I knew I needed to figure out how to organize them all because even though we only rarely have to consult a manual, when we need one, we really need it! In this post I’d like to outline a method I use to organize those necessary evils.

Initial Disclaimer

Let me explain early on that the types of instruction manuals I’m talking about organizing here include manuals for devices like kitchen appliances, exercise equipment, bathroom appliances, and most electronic devices (like DVD players and such). At our house we have a special place for all our computer-related instruction manuals, boxes, and installation CD’s. We have chosen to keep them separate from everything else for easier access and because of their sheer volume. When you decide how to organize your instruction manuals, you will need to think about such things first. We’ve done it this way because it suits our particular needs. You may choose to just include your computer-related manuals with all your other manuals, and that’s fine. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to it.

My first attempt

My initial plan was a failure, to say the least. I decided to save all the boxes from our new wedding gifts and thought perhaps I should just keep the manuals inside for easy access. After our first water disaster in the basement (where we stored most of the boxes), I realized I needed a new system. This of course came in addition to issues with the boxes being in large, hard-to-reach towers, not to mention the fact that they were big space-stealers. So I ditched most of the now ruined boxes and moved on to Operation Organize Instruction Manuals Phase 2.

Operation Organize Instruction Manuals Phase 2

My next idea was better, but still not ideal. I decided to arrange the manuals into stacks in various places in the house. I kept kitchen manuals in the kitchen, electronic manuals in the office, and large appliance manuals in the mudroom. At first I thought I had a good plan, but we still found it hard to remember which stack contained the manual we actually wanted since some appliances didn’t really fit well into any of the categories. And of course there’s the fact that rifling through a stack of 20 manuals to find the one you actually need is not anyone’s idea of a good time.

Third time’s a charm?

Always looking for ways to make a system even better, I decided to tackle the instruction manual problem one more time. This happened yesterday. I was reminded of the flaws of the present arrangement when my husband asked me where the treadmill manual was. Apparently I had filed it with the kitchen manuals because I didn’t know where else to put it. I decided I needed to make some changes. So I gathered up every manual I could find and made a big pile on my kitchen counter. And so began the organizing. Here’s what I did:

  • Assess the big picture. Before I decide how to organize anything, I try to see the big picture by studying it all at once. It’s a lot for the brain to take in, but I think ultimately I have an easier time coming up with good strategies that way. So in this case, I just allowed my eyes to wander around my big messy pile of manuals until ideas came to me.
  • Think about potential arrangements. As I was looking at the mess of manuals on my counter, I began to come up with possible ways to organize them. First I thought I could keep all the manuals together and just arrange them alphabetically. That idea quickly got shot down as I realized I don’t even know what some of my strange kitchen appliances are called. Next I thought I could divide the manuals up by function, like cooking appliance, recreational equipment, electronic device, etc. I quickly discovered, however, that some items fit into more than one category. I also noticed that some items are stored in very different places so it didn’t really make sense to put them in the same category. This thought gave me an idea.
  • After choosing a strategy, start sorting. I ultimately decided to categorize my manuals based on where the respective devices are located in the house. This way there can be no cross-over because every item has a place where it is stored. I chose the following categories: Kitchen, Office, Living/Family Room, Bathroom, Bedroom, Mudroom, Basement, Garage, and Outside/Home Exterior.
  • Finally, decide on a method of storage. This last step is highly flexible. I had an old accordion file folder lying around, so I decided to use it for storing the instruction manuals. After labeling each pocket with my categories, I filed all the manuals. Where you ultimately keep the organized manuals is entirely up to you. I decided to put them in our office closet for now, in an easy-to-reach place.

Think outside the box

We live in the age of the Internet and I’m always looking for ways to go digital for reasons of efficiency and saving space. In this case, you might consider relying on online manuals as a source since companies are increasingly offering instruction manuals for products on their websites. You could then organize your manuals via bookmarks or PDF documents right there on your computer.

Reader Reflection

It took me three tries to find a good solution for organizing my instruction manuals. How do you organize yours? I’d love to hear your creative ideas.

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