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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!

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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

deep-fat-fryer

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.

deep-fat-fryer-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:

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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.

deep-fat-fryer-egg-rolls

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.

deep-fat-fryer-egg-rolls-cooked

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!

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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

smoothie-maker

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.

smoothie-maker-ingredients

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!

smoothie-maker-smoothie

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!

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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

crock-pot

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:

GRAVY:
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

RUB:
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.

crock-pot-ingredients

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.

crock-pot-cooked

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.

crock-pot-meal

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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I did…draw the line on my overfilled utensil drawer, that is. Do you ever have one of those moments where you just feel a strong urge to organize something? Well, that happened to me the other day so I decided to tackle an area of my kitchen that had long bothered me: my specialty utensil drawer. Not my regular utensil drawer, with forks, spoons, and butter knives. I’m talking about my serving spoons, whisks, measuring cups, you name it. And you know what, it was out of control! Check it out:

utensil-drawer-disorganized

So I got excited. I thought, hey I can satisfy this urge to organize something AND fix a problem that’s been nagging at me for a while. Here was the situation:

Honey, can you grab me a whisk?

  • I couldn’t find anything. Okay, I was able to find some things, like those items I always kept on top the pile, but where was that black serving spoon we used to have? Or the whisk?
  • Even if I could see what I wanted, it wasn’t always easy to remove. Take the rolling pin for example. It was always kept off to the side, but was literally buried underneath several other utensils. The very thought of getting that rolling pin out to use it was a chore. And that’s only one of many examples. Anyone want to help me detach my potato masher from my pastry cutter?
  • Sometimes the drawer wouldn’t even open or close properly. Now you know you have a problem when this happens. Wooden spoons and ladles get contorted so much that the drawer gets stuck on its way open. Or you can’t remember how to arrange the funnels so that the drawer will actually close again.

Operation: Utensil Drawer

You’d think I wouldn’t have let my drawer get to this point in the first place. Well, I felt like I had no choice in the matter. I thought I really only had this one drawer for my specialty utensils and I basically had to make it work. That is, until I had that urge I mentioned up top.

Urges are funny things. Sometimes they can really crank up the creativity level. So I waltzed into the kitchen, determined to free up a second drawer to use for large utensils because clearly my one-drawer system was not working. Yes, I did think of putting a mug or jar on the counter with all my wooden spoons, but I rejected that idea ultimately because (1) I really do loathe clutter on my kitchen counter, just ask my husband, and (2) I don’t think removing a few wooden spoons would have made much of a dent in my problem.

How I freed up another drawer is really not too important here (if you’re curious, I moved my cutting boards to the oven drawer and then moved my plastic bags/foil/saran wrap supplies to the cutting board drawer…instant empty drawer!). What is important is that now I had a nice clean slate to work with to divide my one totally disorganized drawer into two organized ones.

Here’s what I did. I decided that the most obvious division between all my specialty utensils was serving utensils (wooden and plastic spoons, ladles, ice cream scoops, spatulas, etc.) and everything else (measuring cups, whisks, funnels, pastry cutter, rolling pin, etc). As it turned out, dividing the utensils that way meant a pretty equal usage of each drawer. Perfect. Check out my after shots:

utensil-drawer-organized

Wow, I can see the whisk!  And I found that black serving spoon I thought we lost!  But I can just hear the naysayers now: Sarah, you can’t possibly keep those drawers looking so nice and tidy for very long. Well, I have kept it this way for 2 weeks. Is that long? Drawer dividers would be ideal, but I don’t have any of those. I think the real key is that my husband and I both stick to the new system and we enjoy it too much to mess it up. Simple as that.

It’s a thing of beauty

To summarize, the new organizational system ensures that (1) everything can be found, (2) everything can be easily removed, and (3) the drawer opens and closes with ease. My three initial problems are solved. I probably should also mention that I ended up getting rid of a couple of utensils that were doubles or triples (i.e. we already had one (or two) and didn’t need yet another) or totally unknown to us (i.e. um, what does this do?). Clutter control can be a beautiful thing.

Well, so goes my story of how I satisfied an urge to organize something. Do you ever get these kinds of urges?

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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!

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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

waffle-iron

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.

waffle-iron-batter

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).

waffle-iron-waffles

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!

waffles

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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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.

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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

electric-indoor-grill

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.

electric-indoor-grill-quesadillas

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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Last week I kicked off my new series Mission: Appliances with the Food Chopper, a small but handy kitchen appliance. I’m happy to report that I have used it a few times since! This week my appliance of choice is considerably larger, and one that I am pretty excited about: a Wok.

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The Wok that I officially own is the Rival Electric Wok Skillet. We got it as a wedding gift and it was probably one of the appliances I was most excited about using. Unfortunately, I’ve only used it once!

Wok Vital Statistics

  • Brand: Rival
  • Average Price: $55
  • Power: 1400 Watts; Heats to 450 degrees F
  • Size: 10 X 10 X 4 inches; 10 inch diameter
  • Accessories: Glass lid, detachable cord, wire racks
  • Complexity: Fairly easy to use
  • Versatility: Used for stir-frying
  • Cleaning: Very easy to clean, and removable wok pan is dishwasher safe
  • Storage: Stores best in a big cupboard or on a wide shelf. Unit is pretty large
  • Safety Tips: Wok pan gets very hot
  • Pre-series Location: Deep cupboard; requires removal of several other pots/pans and appliances to reach
  • Pre-series Use Level: Used once

wok

Project Wok

As I stated above, I had only used my Wok once prior to this project. I can think of two reasons why. First, I have it stored in a very inconvenient place! It’s hard to reach and I have to remove several other pots and pans to get to it—annoying! Second, my one and only experience with my Wok wasn’t totally ideal. My veggies got overdone and oil kept splattering everywhere. I was pretty clueless about what temperature setting to use.

So this time around, I decided to be a little more careful knowing that hot oil can splatter and food cooks FAST. I used the Wok to prepare Thai Noodles, a sauté that includes rice noodles, veggies, and a wide variety of sauces and spices.

I turned on the Wok and began heating my sesame oil at a temperature of 350 degrees. I was planning on adding chicken and that seemed like a good temperature. Well, when I added the chicken, oil started spraying everywhere! I think the main problem was that the chicken was still partially frozen (water+oil=splatter), but I also know now that the temperature was just too high.

After turning down the temperature to 250 degrees, I had a much better time. I was quite glad I had prepared all my veggies ahead of time (carrots, mushrooms, peppers) because everything sautéed really really fast! The whole process only took a few minutes after the chicken was fully cooked and then I turned the heat off. The veggies were nice and crisp and the flavors had melded well.

wok-thai-noodles

The Verdict

Now that I understand how volatile and fast the Wok can be, I know to be prepared in advance. I liked using it because it seemed to cook everything evenly, the wok pan is very large and non-stick, the cooking process was extremely fast, and the unit was pretty easy to clean—I just washed the pan out with soapy water.

I’ve decided to store it in the same cupboard (I really don’t have another option!), but for now I’m leaving it closer to the front. We’ll see if other appliances compete for that spot in the future.

Reader Reflection

Do you own a Wok? How often do you use it?

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