Don't let your new appliances collect dust

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PHOTOS | Kitchen appliances at Different Drummer's Kitchen

Is that new stand mixer, food processor or pressure cooker you got as a holiday gift still in the box? Grab a pair of scissors — it's time to crack it open and start cooking.

Berkshire/Southern Vermont cooking experts say you'll find those kitchen appliances are worth employing to bake a better cake or prepare a nutritious meal in less time.

"It does make you a 'kitchen wizard' with these kitchen gadgets," according to Clea Fowler, front end manager of The Chef Shop in Great Barrington, Mass.

However, the culinary magic you create depends on how well you read /follow the operating instructions, as well as keeping the gadgets readily available.

"If they are not out on your counter, you won't use them," said Lynn Sunderland at Different Drummer's Kitchen in Lenox, Mass.

Sunderland, Fowler and Jessi Kerner, director of marketing at J.K. Adams, a kitchen and home outfitter in Dorset, Vt., offer these tips on getting the most out of your new or little-used kitchen aids.

STAND MIXER

A 4-5 quart mixer is best for home use, as mixers that size are most often used for baking. Standard attachments include the paddle, wire whip and dough hook.

- Some stand mixers have pour shields making it easier to combine ingredients as you're mixing.

- Beyond cookie dough and cake batter, the mixer — with the right attachments — can become a vegetable juicer, meat grinder, pasta roller and an ice cream maker.

     "[The mixer] also makes great mashed potatoes. They come out nice and smooth, not a lot of chunks," Kerner said.

- Kerner finds stand mixers work best for those who physically can't, beat, blend or grind by hand. They are also a good teaching tool for children, showing them how to cook for themselves — under adult supervision, of course.

"When children start to make the food, they are more likely to try it," she said.

FOOD PROCESSOR

This appliance goes beyond just chopping up fruits and vegetables, especially the high-end Cuisnart types, according to Sunderland.

"People often forget they have the slicing and shredding disk and only use the cutting blade," she said. "The shredding is great for potatoes for latkes, cheese and carrots. Use the slicing disk for cucumbers, Brussels sprouts and potatoes for chips and casseroles."

- As for onions, you will have to fight the tears — dicing by hand is still best. Sunderland says the food processor will turn the root vegetable into mush due to its high water content.

- Once a messy function, pureeing in a food processor has improved as the new ones don't leak like the older models. This is good news for parents of babies and toddlers learning to eat solid food.

- Get creative. Food processors are ideal for making such staples as peanut butter and mayonnaise, and to churn heavy cream into butter.

- Like the stand mixer, it can be used as another teaching tool.

"My [9-year-old] twins like to bake, so we use the food processor to make the pie pastry," Fowler said.

PRESSURE COOKER

Today's models are not your mother's pressure cookers. Unlike the ones of years ago that would blow a top, staining the ceiling above the stove, the 21st-century cookers are user-friendly.

"All of them have multiple safety features and are made of stainless steel. Older ones were made of aluminum," noted Sunderland.

- Other upsides include cooking time is greatly reduced, thus saving energy; they preserve the nutrients and vitamins of the grains, vegetables and meats and you're using fewer pots and pans.

- Pressure cookers require a learning curve, so carefully follow the owner's manual and never leave one unattended.

- Use recipes specifically for pressure cookers.

"You need to follow the recipes precisely, especially when adding the right amount of liquid," Fowler said.




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