Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

This week for Mission: Appliances, we were finally able to use one of our newest appliances, our deep fat fryer. While not an appliance we think we should use too often (um, ya, not too healthy people), we have always wanted one for special meals. So, without further adieu, let’s get out the deep fat fryer!


We own the Presto 05466 ProFry Stainless-Steel Dual-Basket Immersion-Element 12-Cup Deep Fryer (now that’s a mouthful). We asked for it for Christmas and have not had the opportunity to use it yet—that is, until now.

While I like to keep battering and frying foods down to a minimum, I do think that occasionally it’s fun to do. And in our case, we really wanted an easier way to prepare certain foods we were already frying, just in a skillet (talk about a mess!). Enter the deep fat fryer.

Deep Fat Fryer Vital Statistics

  • Brand: Presto
  • Average Price: $70
  • Power: 1800 watt immersion element
  • Size: 16 X 15 X 11 inches; 12 pounds
  • Features: Adjustable thermostat; oil-ready indicator light; cover acts as a spatter shield
  • Complexity: Easy to use
  • Versatility: Deep fat fries just about anything
  • Cleaning: A little involved to clean
  • Storage: Unit is pretty large, so needs a bit more room than most appliances in order to store
  • Safety Tips: Heating elements get very hot; oil and steam can both be extremely hot
  • Pre-series Location: On the top shelf of a hall closet
  • Pre-series Use Level: Brand new, never used before


Project Deep Fat Fryer

When we asked for a deep fat fryer for Christmas, we actually picked a particular model out. It was highly reviewed and seemed like a good choice. After taking it out the box, we prepared it by cleaning it out fully and purchasing a 5 quart jug of canola oil.


One of the meals we had wanted to cook with a deep fat fryer was egg rolls, or more specifically, Lumpia. Our friends make it all the time and also recently started using a deep fat fryer. We thought it seemed like a good idea since frying the little egg rolls in a skillet was difficult and messy.

Here’s the recipe:


1 lb ground hamburger
3 carrots, minced
8 oz jar of water chestnuts, drained and minced
1 egg
¼ cup soy sauce
Ground pepper and garlic powder to taste
2 TBS lemon juice

1 lb package egg roll wrappers (~20 wrappers)
1 TBS flour + 1 TBS water mixture


1. Mix the hamburger, carrots, water chestnuts, egg, soy sauce, pepper, garlic, and lemon juice in a mixing bowl.
2. Take 3 small spoonfuls of meat mixture and place them along the long edge of an egg roll wrapper. Gently roll the wrapper until it is almost rolled up. Apply some flour/water mixture to the end and finish rolling (seals the egg roll shut).
3. Cut each long egg roll into 3 sections. Continue to repeat steps 2 and 3 until you’ve used up all the meat mixture.
4. Fry the egg rolls in oil until the meat is fully cooked inside and the egg roll wrappers are crispy.


Here’s what we did with step 4, using our deep fat fryer: We pre-heated the oil for 20 minutes to 375 degrees F. Then we placed egg rolls at the bottom of each of the two baskets, submerging the baskets into the hot oil. After 2-3 minutes, the egg rolls were done. We continued to do this until all the egg rolls were fried.


There were a few complications we encountered, but were able to work through by the end. First, we were not sure if we would have been able to place more uncooked egg rolls in the baskets at one time. We were afraid they would stick to one another and cook together as one big glob. So we played it safe and only placed one layer of egg rolls in each basket, making sure there was enough space between each egg roll to prevent touching.

The second issue we had was with the egg rolls sticking to the bottom of the basket. We read in the instruction manual that this could be a problem. We eventually realized that if we coated the baskets with hot oil first before adding the egg rolls and if we shook the baskets a few times while the egg rolls were submerged, the egg rolls did not stick too much.

The Verdict

The lumpia was quite yummy! It was great to be able to fry them so quickly (2-3 minutes) and have them evenly cooked. That was definitely a problem I had with frying them previously in a skillet. They were nice and crispy and tasted great coming out of the deep fat fryer. Clean-up was a little more involved than with most appliances, but it was to be expected. We plan to reuse the oil several times before discarding it. Overall, we love the deep fat fryer!

Reader Reflection

Do you own a deep fat fryer? What is your favorite thing to fry?


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This week for Mission: Appliances, I’d like to feature an appliance that I wish I had dusted off long ago…the smoothie maker. Why? Well, I find myself using it regularly now that I’ve discovered how cool it is!


We own the Back to Basics SJR1X Smoothie Blast smoothie maker. My husband got it before we were married and as I said above, I only recently discovered its potential.

You see, my husband’s grandparents have a HUGE garden. And every year they supply us with copious amounts of frozen fruit, like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and apples. I certainly have used this fruit to make desserts in the past, but now with this smoothie maker, I can use the fruit in lots of new ways (and the fact that the fruit is frozen is a bonus!). Let’s see how great this smoothie maker really is.

Smoothie Maker Vital Statistics

  • Brand: Back to Basics
  • Average Price: $40
  • Power: 350 watt motor
  • Size:32 ounce container, 6 x 16 x 7 inches, 8 pounds
  • Features: Dispenser valve serves smoothies without a mess
  • Complexity: Very easy to use
  • Versatility: Marketed for smoothies, but can blend just about anything a normal blender would blend
  • Cleaning: Easy to clean
  • Storage: Unit breaks down into parts that fit well inside a cupboard
  • Safety Tips: Blending blades are sharp
  • Pre-series Location: Inside a high cupboard that can be reached without a chair
  • Pre-series Use Level: My husband used it a couple of times before we were married, but I never had until now


Project Smoothie Maker

A few weeks ago when we used our blender to make milkshakes, we also decided to bring out the smoothie maker too. I searched recipes online, never having made a smoothie before, and came up with this:

Strawberry Yogurt Smoothie
8 frozen strawberries
3 ice cubes
½ cup milk
½ cup plain yogurt
2 TBS white sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

We added the ingredients to the container and immediately noticed a feature with this smoothie maker that was going to make it better than our blender: a stirring stick you can use to stir the ingredients while they are blending so you don’t have to keep turning the unit on and off to mix the solids around.


After everything blended, we used the handy little spout to pour the smoothies into our glasses. Yum! Now this first time we used a recipe, but since then, we’ve invented all sorts of different smoothies. For example, my husband loves to combine frozen pineapple chunks, yogurt, orange juice, sugar, and vanilla extract. I for one love strawberries as my base, but I’ve been adding blueberries, cran-raspberry juice, and sometimes ice cream instead of yogurt if I’m feeling naughty. It’s actually quite fun to try different combinations to see what you can come up with!


I want to mention here also as a side note that we were also able to borrow another kind of smoothie maker from a family member this month, called the Magic Bullet.  This smoothie maker uses a smaller blender unit and the container you use to blend your ingredients in is the same container you use to drink out of later.  I really like that concept because there’s less to clean.  It’s definitely a nifty little gadget, but our smoothie maker also gets the job done.

The Verdict

We love our smoothie maker! It blends better than our blender (thanks to the stirring stick) and we’ve had a lot of fun inventing smoothie recipes. I know we’ll keep using this appliance regularly and I’m glad we have it!

Reader Reflection

Do you own a smoothie maker? What is your favorite kind of smoothie?

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This week for Mission: Appliances, I chose an appliance I actually do use on occasion, but I wish I used more: a slow cooker, or crock pot. Slow cookers are so cool, there are even whole blogs devoted just to them. So that inspired me to try to find a recipe unlike any I had ever tried before so I could stretch myself a little. Let’s see how it turned out!


We actually own 2 slow cookers, the Proctor Silex 33015 1.5-Quart Round Slow Cooker and Hamilton Beach Stay/Go Slow Cooker. One is small and other is large. I’ve used both equally in the past, mainly to transport food to a potluck or a party, and a few times to cook ribs. For this particular experiment, I used the small one.

Slow Cooker Vital Statistics

  • Brand: Proctor Silex
  • Average Price: $20
  • Power: Keep Warm, Low, & High settings
  • Size: 1.5 quart capacity, 5.6 pounds
  • Features: Dishwasher safe stoneware and lid
  • Complexity: Very easy to use
  • Versatility: Slow cooks just about anything
  • Cleaning: Very easy to clean stoneware as long as you do not let it sit out too long to dry
  • Storage: Unit is pretty compact so fits well inside a cupboard
  • Safety Tips: Heating elements get hot on High setting
  • Pre-series Location: Inside a deep cupboard; must remove several other appliances and pots first
  • Pre-series Use Level: Used on occasion to keep foods warm or to cook ribs


Project Slow Cooker

In my search for a creative recipe to try with my slow cooker, I found a popular one on allrecipes.com: Slow Cooker Pot Roast. A pot roast might not seem all that creative to some of you, but I had never made one before, let alone bought one! It was actually kind of fun to try a new meat that was relatively inexpensive. I went with a 2.35 lb Angus Beef Bottom Round Roast and modified the recipe some to enhance the flavors:

2 10.75 oz. cans cream of mushroom soup
1 1 oz. package of dry onion soup mix
1 cup beef broth
¼ cup red cooking wine
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce

2 TBS flour
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 tsp rosemary

Directions: Mix rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Coat roast with rub. In a skillet in olive oil, sear all sides of the roast until brown to lock in the juices. Meanwhile, mix all the gravy ingredients in the slow cooker. Place the seared roast inside and cover with the gravy. Cook on high for 4 hours and low for 2 hours.


I found the prep to be pretty fast and after you get the ingredients inside the slow cooker, you basically just have to wait! I do like slow cookers in this way—I was able to prepare most of dinner before lunch and we just ate when it was done. One thing I tend not to like about slow cookers is that they seem to cook the snot out of some things. For meat this could be perfect—who doesn’t want tender, falling-off-the-bone ribs or what not? But for veggies, I prefer a little texture and crunch. That’s why I left veggies out of the gravy.


After 5 hours, I prepared my two sides (garlic mashed potatoes & frozen corn) and then after 6 hours everything was ready. Clean up was pretty easy and I made sure I rinsed out the stoneware before it got too cool and dry. Overall we really enjoyed the roast! I’m not a big fan of roasts in general (I’m more of a steak person), but the sauce was quite good and the meat was moist and tender.


The Verdict

Well, I’m convinced to try more slow cooker recipes! I really have wanted to, but I just haven’t done it. Maybe I’ll get a slow cooker cook book or visit a slow cooker blog. In any case, this is one of those staple appliances that really does offer a lot of versatility.

Reader Reflection

What is your favorite recipe to make in your slow cooker?

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During these difficult economic times, families seem to flock to fast food restaurants because they somehow think they are saving money. Fast food is ‘cheap’ right? Well, my gut tells me it isn’t. It may just appear cheap because in the end, most people don’t take the time to calculate the average cost of a home-cooked meal.

Well, my husband and I have been curious lately about how much our home-cooked meals actually cost. I love to cook and I have a lot of fun experimenting with all sorts of recipes. But when compared with fast food, does cooking at home really save money?


McDonald’s vs. Hamburger Casserole

I don’t have too many guilty pleasures, but McDonald’s is definitely one of them. I especially love their french fries and apparently I have eagerly sought them out since I was a baby according to my parents. To be sure, my husband and I do not frequently dine at McDonald’s, or any fast food restaurants for that matter, because we understand that the food is just plain not good for us.

Health standards aside here, I would like to calculate the cost of an average meal from McDonald’s versus an average meal I cook for us at home. I want to find out what costs more and hopefully prove a point with some plain math.

  • Below you will see the cost breakdown for an average meal that my husband and I order at McDonald’s:

2 crispy chicken ranch snack wraps @ $1.59 each
1 large french fries @ $2.00
1 medium soft drink @ $1.90
1 Chicken Ranch BLT Extra Value Meal @ $6.00
Tax @ $0.72

Total cost= $13.80
Leftover potential = NONE

  • Now here’s the cost breakdown of a common hamburger casserole I make at home:

1 lb ground hamburger @ $3.70
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes @ $0.63
2.5 cups macaroni noodles @ $0.50
1 green bell pepper @ $0.50
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese @ $1.00
1 10.5 oz can cream of mushroom soup @ $0.70
1 6.5 oz can french fried onions @ $2.50

2 glasses of milk @ $0.40

Total cost = $9.93
Leftover potential = 3 more dinners worth

The Verdict

Obviously my experiment here is in no way scientific or even 100% accurate because I had to estimate a few prices I could not find. But the results speak for themselves. The dinner at McDonald’s cost us $13.80 and we had no leftovers. The casserole cost us $9.93 to make and it lasts for 3 more dinners beyond that first meal. So that, in effect, makes each night’s meal cost about $2.50!

One might argue that it takes time to cook meals at home and fast food is easy. Well, what about your driving time, or the price of gas? All in all, fast food is not an economically sound way to spend your money during hard times, or even good times. A treat every once and a while is fine (hey, I’m not ready to give up my fries), but making a habit out of it is not a wise way to spend your money.

Reader Reflection

Do you eat at fast food restaurants to ‘save’ money?

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Last week for Mission: Appliances I featured an appliance I use pretty regularly, my electric indoor grill. This week I dusted off one of my less frequently used appliances, my waffle iron. Waffles are pretty cool—in fact I usually order them at restaurants for breakfast. But it’s been a bit of a struggle to use this appliance very often. Let’s hope that can change!


The waffle iron we own is the Hamilton Beach 26200 Restaurant Style Belgian Waffle Baker. My husband bought it before we got married and frankly I’m not sure how often he used it either. We pulled it out a few months ago, but had a bit of a problem with the batter sticking, so we weren’t exactly eager to use it again. But this time I think we figured out the sticking problem, as explained later on.

Waffle Iron Vital Statistics

  • Brand: Hamilton Beach
  • Average Price: $25
  • Power: 1000 watts
  • Size: 11 x 4 x 12.5 inches; 6 pounds
  • Features: Fast-flip design, Cool touch handle and indicator lights
  • Complexity: Fairly easy to use
  • Versatility: Used to make waffles
  • Cleaning: Very easy to clean as long as waffle batter doesn’t stick
  • Storage: Unit is pretty compact so storage isn’t too hard
  • Safety Tips: Interior gets very hot
  • Pre-series Location: Deep inside a low kitchen cupboard (must remove several other pots, pans, and appliances in order to reach)
  • Pre-series Use Level: Used once before to make chocolate chip blueberry waffles


Project Waffle Iron

As I stated before, I really do love waffles. The last (and only) time we used this waffle maker was to prepare chocolate chip blueberry waffles a few months ago. It was kind of a bust because the batter stuck pretty severely to the interior, likely due to the chocolate chips. This time, when preparing strawberry waffles, we knew to spray the interior with cooking spray first.


We used the recipe for Blueberry Oat Waffles on allrecipes.com and just omitted the blueberries and pecans. Overall it’s a tasty batter! The recipe makes about 4-5 five inch waffles. We used a ½ cup measuring cup to pour the batter into the center of each grid and each waffle took about 5 or so minutes to bake (you can do two at a time).


We kept the waffles warm in the oven while the others were finishing and then I topped each waffle with strawberry sauce (made with my food chopper!), whole strawberries, and whipped cream…yum!


The Verdict

I really did enjoy the waffles and they make a great post-church brunch meal. Furthermore, now that we know about the cooking spray issue, we will have no more troubles with sticking (which was a real pain to clean up the first time by the way!).

The issue I have with this waffle iron in general is that it is a unitasker appliance (as far as I know). I have a problem with unitasker appliances because I feel that the space they take up is not as worthwhile as appliances that are more versatile. Nonetheless, I don’t know of any other way to make homemade tasty waffles. 🙂

Reader Reflection

Do you have a waffle iron? Does anyone know of other creative ways waffle irons can be used besides for making waffles?

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Good morning fellow meal-planners. I’m in a great mood because looking back at this past week, I can say with excitement that we had marvelous meals!

My two new recipes, Pico de Gallo Chicken Quesadillas and Penne with Spicy Vodka Tomato Cream Sauce, were both excellent. I made a few minor alterations that I’ll note here in case anyone is interested. With the quesadillas, I added red bell peppers and mushrooms, and as I mentioned in my Mission: Appliances post from Friday, I grilled them instead of frying them in oil in a skillet. For the penne, I use white wine instead of vodka and mild ground Italian sausage instead of links of sweet Italian sausage. Both recipes are going into the permanent recipe file!

This week will be a little hectic for us so I’m not planning as many complicated meals. Nevertheless, I’ve still got a few interesting things up my sleeve.


Monday 2/16/09

Black Bean Fried Rice (Invention)

Tuesday 2/17/09


Wednesday 2/18/09


Thursday 2/19/09

Dinner at in-laws

Friday 2/20/09

Dinner at a restaurant

Saturday 2/21/09

Ziti with Italian Sausage (bake), with green beans and garlic bread

Sunday 2/22/09


* * * * * *

I posted my weekly menu to the I’m an Organizing Junkie blog, so be sure to check it out and participate if you’d like!

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This week for Mission: Appliances, I decided to work with one of my more newly acquired appliances, an electric indoor grill. This is one of those rare appliances we actually researched, sought out, and purchased by choice because of its glowing reviews. Even though we’ve used the grill several times already, I decided to include it on my list to explore its further potential.


The actual grill that we own is the Sanyo HPS-SG3 200-Square-Inch Electric Indoor Barbeque Grill. As I said above, we researched it heavily and bought it when there was a great deal on Amazon. In fact, I wrote a review for it right here at Lifestyles of the Organized because we love it so much (if you want more details than found here, be sure to read the review). Since the purchase, we’ve grilled hamburgers several times and chicken kabobs once.

Electric Indoor Grill Vital Statistics

  • Brand: Sanyo
  • Average Price: $35
  • Power: 1300 watts; Heats to 425 degrees F
  • Size: Measures 23-5/8 by 3-7/8 by 14-1/2 inches
  • Accessories: Drip pan, detachable power cord
  • Complexity: Very easy to use
  • Versatility: Used for all sorts of grilling
  • Cleaning: Surprisingly easy to clean as long as you take the proper measures
  • Storage: Storage is a little difficult since the unit is rather large. On the contrary, when compared to other grills, it is quite small and convenient to store
  • Safety Tips: Grill surface gets very hot
  • Pre-series Location: Hall closet, on a high shelf
  • Pre-series Use Level: Used about five times since purchase in November 2008


Project Electric Indoor Grill

I just love this grill. Grilling in general is a very tasty and often times healthier method of cooking, but it can also be so inconvenient. In the middle of winter we are not going to rush outside in subzero temperatures to wait 45 minutes for our charcoal grill to fire up. But with the indoor grill, you never have to worry about the weather!

Up until recently we had successfully grilled hamburgers and chicken kabobs with this grill. One of my new recipes for this week was Pico de Gallo Chicken Quesadillas and even though the recipe actually called for frying them in a skillet, I thought it would be a fun experiment to grill them instead.

I wasn’t exactly sure of a temperature, so we started out with a safe low temperature. Eventually we got the temperature up to about 300 degrees F and that seemed like a good pace for grilling the quesadillas—the tortillas got crispy and there was plenty of time for the cheese to melt and the filling to heat up nicely inside.


When we were all done, we had 6 yummy quesadillas that were really very easy to prepare! We were able to grill them 2 at a time, but I suppose we might have been able to squeeze three on the 200-square-inch surface if we had tried. Overall, it was a great success!

The Verdict

I’m not going to beat around the bush for this one—this grill is awesome! I fully expect and look forward to using it regularly in the future and I think our current storage location is pretty decent (on a closet shelf). Now I just wish I felt this excited about all my appliances—but I suppose that’s what this series is all about. 🙂

Reader Reflection

Have you ever used an indoor electric grill?

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