Monday, October 17, 2011

Worth Every Penny

I mentioned in my last post that I've been cooking my brains out. I'm having great fun, but after several batches of creamed soup I began to grow extremely weary of the messy and seemingly endless task of putting it all through the blender one batch at a time.

Since the garden has produced an abundance of what can only be described as "mystery squash" this year...

I was really starting to dread the idea of an autumn filled with endless batches of squash soup in the blender followed by endless hours of kitchen cleaning.

But, many of the recipes I found online talked about a mysterious device known as an immersion blender.

It's basically a blender on a stick and you just put the thing into your pot of soup and blend it into a nice smooth consistency.

Now, I'm not generally a big fan of kitchen gadgets, because they're such a pain to haul out, set up, tear down, clean up etc.

But, after the last soup-making extravaganza left me with an hour-long kitchen clean up, I finally bit the bullet and bought one. OMG! I am SOOOO glad that I did. I mean, this thing is truly magic!

What used to be a half hour job of complete and utter mess, suddenly became a 5 minute piece of cake task. Plus, clean up was a dream... you just rinse it off, pop off the end, and toss it in the dishwasher. Seriously, it was so easy I felt like I was cheating!

It's really amazing what a difference it makes when you have the right tool for the job.

So I am now looking forward to many, Many, MANY more batches of soup.

And, in case you're curious... the best new recipe so far is most definitely the Mexican squash/corn chowder.

Basic recipe...

Saute an onion and pepper in olive oil - I used half a green pepper and 2 jalapenos, but you could use green chilies or any other sort of pepper that you like. Add about a cup or so of corn - I used frozen, but you could use either fresh or canned. Add cubed hunks of squash - any variety - mine was mystery squash - and enough stock to cover the chunks. Simmer until the squash is soft and then blend with your fancy schmancy, nifty gallifty, totally cool and amazingly awesome new immersion blender. Top with grated cheese or sour cream. Totally YUMMY!


  1. Sounds like an awesome possum type of recipe. Must look for that gadget.

  2. The recipe sounds great! I have had the immersion blender on my kitchen 'wish list' for a few years. I'm glad to hear it works so well. If you don't mind me asking, what brand did you go with? Thanks!

  3. Smart purchase! Being able to put in the dishwasher nice feature... have one though have to hand wash. Great tool and not much of a space sucker Recipe sounds delish.... The harvest continues!

    Useful tool for making a super quick apple sauce, BTW

  4. Merry - It's pretty neato bendito all right, and it was easy peasy too!

    Shannon Marie - I went with the Cuisinart - the one pictured in fact.

    It was under $30 (USD) - it generally got good reviews, although a few people said that there was a plastic part somewhere inside the spinning mechanism that tends to break with a lot of use. But... none of the other models got much better reviews, and it seemed like with the more expensive models what you were really paying for was all of the fancy attachments. I have a nice stand mixer that I use for all of those other applications... I really just wanted something to make the soup blending easier, so I went with simple.

    Jay - Apple Sauce!!! That's been on my list to try for years. Unfortunately my next door neighbor's apple tree bit the dust in a big blizzard a few years back so I'll have to find another source of free/cheap apples.

  5. I, too got fed up with using my blender for soups. I finally got an immersion blender and love it to death also.

  6. I have both an immersion blender and a regular blender. The big question of the day: what jobs does the stand blender do that an immersion blender won't??? I also have a food processor with an ice chopping blade, so that area's covered. Just wondering if I have an appliance I can sell or if I'll regret it.

    Your thoughts everyone?

  7. Jake - I'm still giddy over the thing... although today's little episode borrowing my best friend's hammer drill is a close second. Seriously, I had to drill a hole in some concrete so I can put a support in to prop up my drooping deck. I spent 6 hours, killed 3 drill bits and made it a quarter of an inch down. She brought over the hammer drill, and in 15 minutes we had a half inch wide hole drilled 4 inches down. Woman Discovers TOOLS!

    Janeen - Well... let's see, my food processor died about 5 years ago (well... it's not totally dead... it just needs a new blade and I've been too lazy to replace it.) I honestly haven't missed the thing. I have a stand mixer that I LOVE and the new immersion blender, and I'm sort of thinking that's all I need. I'm not ready to dump either the limping food processor or the regular blender yet, but they'll probably lose their coveted kitchen cupboard space soon and be relegated to storage in the basement.

  8. I've been hunting for just the right immersion blender for ages but still haven't bit the bullet. i really need one for a lot of the DIY cosmetics/toiletries/house cleaner recipes, and having it for cooking would be a bonus.

    i've been torn between a more expensive version that "supposed" to last longer, or a cheapie at target that may need replaced in less than a year, even with lighter use, apparently. but there's no guarantee the more expensive WILL actually last longer. Tho some have a better reputation, there are still scads of reviews saying they died in X time. The ZW aspect feels a bit horrified by buying what may be a throw away appliance. But I'll only know if my fears are justified if I try, right?

    Thanks for the entertaining post.

  9. Steph - I totally know what you mean... bite the bullet and go for expensive or go cheap and see what happens. But it's sort of a gamble any way you slice it. My own curse in this department is telephones. It never seems to matter how much money I spend, or how highly rated the model is, they all seem to die on me in less than a year. It may be because I use them to death since CatMan and I spend about 3 hours a day on the phone... but I think I'm just cursed.

    Just out of curiosity... according to your research, which brands are supposed to last longer? I'm hoping that I won't use the thing enough for it to matter, and really I'm not planning on giving it any hard workouts... mostly just infinite batches of squash soup. But I will let you know. And if it does break, there's always the chance that it could be fixed - probably a slim chance, but a chance nonetheless!

  10. Steph, another thought is comfort (and available storage) I found some of the immersion blenders to be too large or difficult to handle, and would have avoided using even if they were the glitzy model.
    Also, if you're using for both nonfood and food, you might want to lean towards a stick blender that can be put in the dishwasher (if you have one)....

  11. I love love love love LOVE my immersion blender. I probably spent $20 (for sure less than $30) on it and it has never given me a problem. A simple rinse is almost always all it takes to get it clean again. :)

    Side note: If you are dealing with cleaning up a conventional blender, I have found that filling it half full with hot water, adding a drop of dishsoap and then running it again for a few moments makes cleanup much simpler!

    Have an awesome day and enjoy that soup! It sounds delicious.

  12. My 2¢ regarding keeping blenders, food processors, etc.: I use my food processor 4-5 times a week, usually to quickly chop or grate something, other times to mix up some pasta or bread dough. We have an old, classic KitchenAid stand mixer that I love, but the food processor is lighter and faster. I have a stand blender, too, but use only occasionally, and could do without. It no longer earns space in our tiny kitchen. The stick blender I tend to go through phases with, but it's small enough to keep handy.
    Like I said, just my 2¢

  13. I feel like I'm always rediscovering my immersion blender. I'll be making soup and dreading pulling out the blender and the subsequent cleanup, and then, I'll think, "But wait, the immersion blender."

    The main downside of the one I have is that the whole thing is plastic, including the part that goes in the soup, and plastic and hot food is generally a combination I try to avoid. It looks like on your model, the part that comes into contact with food is all metal. I don't think it's a big enough deal for me to run out and buy a new one when my current one works just fine, but definitely something I'll look for if/when mine bites the dust.

  14. Jay... Wow! So there really ARE people who use their food processors. I think this might boil down to my "out of sight, out of mind" personality, but I just have such a hard time making myself drag the thing out and set it up... the stand mixer, on the other hand... it lives on the counter top so it's always right there. Hmmm... wonder what that says about me!

    Mary - That's great advice on the blender clean up... Actually, cleaning the blender itself isn't really my problem. It's the liberal amount of soup that I always manage to spill along the way that makes the real mess... especially when you spill in into the buttons of the blender. Yes... I am a total slob.

    Melissa - I would feel qualmy about putting something plastic into my hot soup too. And yes, the part that comes in contact with the soup is all metal on mine.

  15. Well, the food processor sits in a corner base cabinet, top shelf, and is one of the mid-sized Cuisinarts. It's as easy to get out as to deal with the stand mixer.
    If didn't have a dishwasher, wouldn't use, as am super paranoid about sharp objects (even before my encounter with a Mandolin).

    I think it's all in how your kitchen tools are arranged.

  16. Jay - so here's my stumbling block with the food processor... you have to get the cutting board and knife out anyhow in order to cut the veggies into small enough pieces to fit into the machine. And, I can do the remaining chopping by hand much quicker than I can set up and tear down the food processor, even if I didn't have to dig it out of the back of the cabinet. So... I just haven't found it to save me any time at all, it just gives me more stuff to wash. What am I missing?

    BTW - In my world a mandolin is a small 8-stringed musical instrument. I'm guessing there must be another meaning to that word because while a mandolin in the wrong hands could certainly make one cringe... I can't imagine it drawing blood! :~)

  17. My mistake! Went with spellcheck: I was referring to a mandoline (one of those fancy slicer thingys). Nearly sliced off part of a finger a few months ago!

  18. Not missing anything regarding the food processor: for me depends on my mood! Also depends on how much I'm doing. Getting to the [age] point where my fingers/hands don't appreciate chopping so much, same with kneading. Especially with things like nuts, cranberries, cukes (for relish), etc. like how the food processor whirs and chops evenly. Also, we use a fair amount of grated cheese, so being able to do a large volume at once is nice.

    With a dishwasher no extra work to wash, and set up, for me, maybe 2 minutes.

    I wouldn't recommend as a must have -not even close- and did without for a long time. Just nice alternative. Each to their own :-))

  19. @ Jay - I'm with you on the food processor. I love mine and use it a lot. It enables me to buy bulk cheese (esp. parm.) and shred it myself -- thus saving lots of moolah and getting a better end product. But, yes, to each their own.

    @EcoCatLady - Just popping in to say "hi." Are you getting massive amounts of snow yet?

  20. OK... now you guys are makin' me think that I really AM missing something, because this is SOOO not my experience. When I tried to shred cheese in it the blade broke, and whenever I try to chop veggies they get stuck and end up jamming the blade. It's like the food won't stay vertical and ends up sliding between the blade and the top. Then when I try to use the inside blade I end up with half of the stuff chopped so small that it's practically liquefied, while the rest is barely touched. The result is that I waste a lot of food and spend a great deal of time cursing. Maybe one of you could give me lessons?

  21. I'm not sure about differences between brands of processors and if that's a cause, but I bought a special disk blade for parmesan cheese and ice cubes for my processor. Re. the inside blade -- I try to do stuff in smaller batches. I know some of the models (including mine)have a smaller nesting bowl that helps with the small batches. And, I try not to get to "trigger happy" with the pulse button.

  22. I, too, couldn't do a brand comparison, having always used a Cuisinart. Janeen alludes to what I think is an important concept: pulse vs just turning on and running, for chopping especially. For grating, slicing, don't overload though I get pretty aggressive sometimes. Other than that, I don't know. Maybe I'm doing something that am not aware of, though.
    Oh, another thought, incredible amount of friction, so heat can build up quickly.
    Also, there's probably a bit more waste with cheese, but the trade off well worth it. The last slice or so of something will sometimes slip in between the blade and lid, but to me, not a biggy. Wouldn't consider slicing/chopping mushy stuff either, e.g., ripe tomatoes, melons, etc.

    Again, use what works for you! :-)))

  23. Hmm... I'm starting to think that perhaps I have a crappy food processor. It doesn't have a pulse option... you just turn the top and it's on. Plus, I think there might be a setup issue, because the space between the grating blade and the top is at least an inch, which is why it literally sucks the stuff in and then gets wedged. It's also quite possible that this is just part of my general ineptitude with machines.

    At this point, given the fact that both blades are broken, I think I'd probably have to go get a new one in order to experiment... so I'm sort of thinking it's not gonna happen. But it is comforting to know that there are people out there who actually use and enjoy theirs.

  24. Right.... you've done perfectly fine without one, so why bother? They're not cheap, and are somewhat of a space sucker.
    I think your purchase of the stick/immersion blender was a perfect choice!

    I should add disclaimer: clearly I am a gadget freak, hate sharp objects, am a KLUTZ, and "getting up there" . So, any chance to put a greater distance between me and said sharp objects, and overall may make things easier, I'm for trying.

    Like I said, did without for a very long time.

  25. Since we're declaring our love for "gadgets" I do have to say that one of the better, most versatile and cost-effective gadgets I've bought in awhile was a small microplane grater. Terrific brand, and they're tough as nails.

    This is an interesting discussion, actually, as I've been puzzling for awhile over my kitchen gadget and cookbook habit. It's an addiction, really, and one area in which I've spent all kinds of money in the past. I've gradually been gifting dishes, pans, gadgets, etc. to nephews to set up house and I've been selling my old cookbooks on I have WAAAYY too many pans and gadgets that can accomplish the same tasks.

    If I had to choose five kitchen things I think are priceless I would say (in no particular order):

    1 - food processor
    2 - A couple of pieces of enameled cast iron
    3 - good knives
    4 - microplane grater
    5 - stand mixer (but that's just me)

  26. It is an interesting topic! Though we have lived in our home for 20+ years, there was a time we lived (with a newborn) on a boat with very little square footage. The fridge was an under-the-counter model, the stove a 2 burner propane with a useless oven, and storage was what fit under a built in bench. From that era I still have my prized cast iron skillet, and 3 Revereware pots. Absolute keepers that are -at least- 35 years old.
    I, too, would add an enameled cast iron pot, as well as a 45+ year old KitchenAid stand mixer (family heirloom), and a swiss peeler. Then there's my knives, despite/because of my fear of "sharp".

    My problem has been the theory "if one's good, more will be better" *sigh*. I do keep trying to channel Alton Brown's disdain of "single use" gadgets, though.

    Mu dumbest purchases:
    too, too many, but would include a microwave popcorn popper, and two different microwave pasta cookers. I just threw away a $3 cheese slicer that peeled some gross coating the first time through the dishwasher (duh).

  27. I'd better fess up to some of my dumbest purchases:

    1 - multiple vegetable peelers
    2 - mini muffin pan
    3- microwave popcorn popper
    4 - lots of "decorative dishware" -- you know, the stuff you only bring out at the holidays
    5 - too many cookbooks

    The jury is still out on these:
    1 - pasta maker attachment: yes, I know pasta is cheap to buy, but I find the process relaxing (when I have the time)
    2 - electric skillet: Did I really need one more frying pan? Probably no. But it's great when I'm dealing with greasy stuff. When I want to fry I can even take it outside and put it on newspaper.
    3 - Rice cooker: probably a waste of time, but I must admit that I eat more of the stuff since I bought it.

  28. A fun exercise is to consider what would you keep if you had to live on said boat, an RV, whatever. As much as I embrace ZW, there are many "do withouts" that i will get rid of only when/if we move into a smaller space. There's a big gray area of "nice", but nowhere close to necessary: stove top smoker, electric skillet, lots of the knives, cookbooks, canner/supplies, a zillion measuring cups (just got rid of several orphaned 1/3 cup measurers--what's with that?).

    Eww, too long a list!

  29. Hmmm... let's see... here's my indispensable/favorites list... Oh wait... I didn't realize I was supposed to keep it to five... too late! Apparently there are a lot of things I couldn't live without!

    1. My Cast iron dutch oven (was my Grandma's) Actually, it's pretty much the whole cast iron set...
    2. My favorite cutting board (true confessions - it's plastic)
    3. My favorite knife... a totally cheap wooden handled serrated knife that I bought 20 years ago for a dollar, but it's still my favorite.
    4. My flat cheese grater - wooden handle, totally indestructible.
    5. My Corning Ware baking dishes - especially the ones with lids
    6. My wooden spoons - how does anybody cook without them?
    7. My metal spatula... wooden handle, extra long, thin and flexible... got it for a dime at the thrift store.
    8. My big enameled pot... not cast iron... it has a nick in the enameling so a friend was gonna trash it, I got it for free.
    9. My crock pot... couldn't live without it!
    10. My stove top whirly popcorn maker - best popcorn EVER! Probably wouldn't be a necessity except that CatMan and I do movie night once a week, and we've GOTTA have popcorn!
    11. My giant stainless steel mixing bowl.
    12. My potato masher.
    13. The muffin tin (OK... I don't REALLY need it, but I use it all the time)
    14. The tea kettle - once again, not totally necessary, but I love it so.
    15. My whisk... a spoon would do in a pinch, but for some things you just need a whisk.

    Mistakes... hmmm... Actually now that I look at it, most of the things on the mistakes list were gifts...

    1. The FOOD PROCESSOR! :-)
    2. The miniature enameled cast iron pot... I never cook small quantities.
    3. The Belgian waffle maker. Why?
    4. The non-stick pots and pans. (Did you know that if you put a Teflon pan on the burner, turn it to high and let it sit for 5-10 minutes, the fumes will kill any bird that happens to have the misfortune of being in your kitchen?)
    5. The souffle dish... it was so pretty, but I've never made a souffle - come to think of it, I don't even know what a souffle is!
    6. The garlic press. I don't get it... a knife is so much easier.
    7. The pressure cooker. I have tried... oh how I have tried, but I just don't have the pressure cooker gene.
    8. The fancy serving dishes
    9. A totally stupid contraption that is like an upside down cup with a sharp blade on a spring that was supposed to chop vegetables. Yikes!

    Good GAWD! This exercise could go on forever. I'm gonna quit while I still have some semblance of sanity left...

  30. Oh, Jeez I'm watching a "Hoarders" episode... lordy, lordy! Good thing it's late at night or I'd be throwing out stuff ...

    Hey ECL, we have one of those whirly popcorn makers! L-O-V-E it. You mentioned other favs of mine, too. Awesome! Had a Revereware whistling teapot for the longest time, but sadly. it disappeared *sigh*. And,, of course, the immersion blender :-)
    Isn't it interesting how many of the favorite things are the oldest, simplest, classics? Must be some profound thought there, somewhere!


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