You might think it would be a cook’s dream to have a kitchen filled with all the latest gadgets and appliances but it’s not mine. I think it’s a trait I picked up from my mother. She didn’t like gadgets and said it was quicker to just do things by hand. Now I’m the one in the kitchen and I prefer to do things by hand. I don’t even have an electric can opener. There is a pleasure I get in using my hands when I cook the way my mother and her mother did. It’s therapeutic to me and I like to play with my food. Now I know I may in the minority but not everyone has the money or the room for a bunch of gadgets and appliances. For those people, it doesn’t mean that cooking is out of the question. It just means figuring out how to make the same dishes a different way. Here are some kitchen gadgets it’s nice to have and how to cook without them.
1. Slow Cooker
There are many people who swear by their slow cooker and say they couldn’t live without it. To be honest, the idea of throwing a bunch of ingredients into a pot, leaving the house and coming back to find it done doesn’t appeal to me. When I get home from a long day, I look forward to making dinner. It relaxes me. And I like to watch my meal develop while I stir, season and taste along the way. For those who want or own a slow cooker, check out 10 Tips for How to Cook in a Slow Cooker, 10 Nutritious Soups and Stews To Make in Your Slow Cooker and It’s Not Just for Soup: 7 Ways to Put Your Slow Cooker to Use.
But what if you want to make Japanese-Style Slow Cooker Tofu or Slow Cooker Tempeh Braised With Figs and Port Wine and you don’t own a slow cooker? Don’t worry. You can make most slow cooker recipes on the stove top or in the oven. Soups can just cook in a Dutch oven or soup pot on the stovetop. An hour or two on a low simmer is more than enough time to make a flavorful soup.
To use the oven, just convert the cooking times. The low setting on a slow cooker is about 200 degrees while the high setting is about 300 degrees. Dishes that cook in a slow cooker on LOW for 4 or more hours can be made in a 350 degree oven in less than 2 hours and as quickly as 30 minutes. Recipes that say to cook in the slow cooker on HIGH for 1-2 hours can be cooked in a 350 degree oven in less than half an hour while dishes needing 3-4 hours in the slow cooker will take up to 40 minutes in the oven. One note: you need a lot less liquid than stated in the slow cooker recipe since the cooking time is so much shorter.
2. Pressure Cooker
Pressure cookers can come in handy when you need to cook up some dried beans or want to cook something quickly. My mother did have a pressure cooker but she only used it to tenderize meat. If you have one, read 5 Ways to Put a Pressure Cooker to Good Use. If you have been wanting to make the switch from canned to dried beans and legumes and you don’t have a pressure cooker, don’t worry. It isn’t hard to cook beans in a pot on the stovetop. First, soak the beans for 8 hours or overnight. You don’t have to do this but it will make them cook much faster. For every cup of dried beans, add 3 cups of water to a heavy saucepan (if you didn’t soak the beans, use more water). Add a piece of kombu which helps you digest the beans more easily. You can add any seasonings you want but hold off on adding salt or any acidic foods. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat and allow to simmer, covered, until the beans are tender. If the water runs out before the beans are tender, just add more. When the beans are tender, drain and enjoy. Also see How to Cook Dried Chickpeas on The Stove or in a Pressure Cooker.
3. Rice Cooker
A rice cooker makes cooking rice and other grains faster and easier but I’ve also heard that white rice is the only grain it cooks perfectly. I don’t know since I don’t have one but I rarely eat white rice anyway. Some people find cooking rice a challenge and it can be. Sometimes it’s overcooked and mushy or undercooked and hard. After a lot of practice, I have my rice cooking down to a science. For every cup of brown rice, the rule is to add 2 cups of water but I find the rice comes out fluffier when I lessen that amount by ¼ – ½ cup. Cover the pot, bring the water to a boil, stir the rice, and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the pot covered another 10 minutes before fluffing. If you need help with rice cooking, see How to Cook the Perfect Brown Rice, How to Cook the Perfect White Basmati Rice and How to Make Perfect Sushi Rice. For other grains, check out Your Guide to Cooking Perfect Whole Grains.
Making healthy noodles out of vegetables is all the rage and it’s easy to understand why. You get to eat all the “pasta” you want with none of the carbs or calories. There are plenty of Top Rated Spiralizers on the Market to Try but if you don’t have the room, money or desire for one, you can easily make veggie noodles without one. I make veggie noodles using a julienne peeler to make thin “noodles” similar to those made by spiralizers. But before I had that julienne peeler, I used the regular vegetable peeler to make wide ribbon “noodles” and if I wanted them thinner, I used a knife to slice them. See How to Make Vegetable Noodles without a Spiralizer to learn more. Then learn about all the different types of veggie noodles you can make in Switch Up Your Pasta Game – How to Use Spiralized Veggies as Noodles and How to Turn Any Vegetable or Fruit Into a Grain-Free Noodle and the Best Ones for the Job.
5. Ice Cream Maker
As summer approaches and everyone wants cold, refreshing ice cream, you might think about investing in an ice cream machine. On the other hand, you could spend that same money on ingredients to make more ice cream. You can make delicious non-dairy ice cream just by using a blender and then freezing the mixture like this No Machine Vegan Viennetta. If you don’t have a blender, you can still make ice cream. Just freeze an empty freezer-safe bowl or pan, combine the ingredients for the ice cream and put them in the cold bowl. Chill for 20-30 minutes and when it just starts to freeze, stir the ice cream to break it up. Put it back in the freezer and repeat this process every half-hour until you have frozen ice cream. Cover and keep frozen until ready to eat. Read Who Needs Dairy When You Can Make Healthier Ice Cream with These Clean Foods and then try these 12 Delicious Vegan Ice Cream Recipes.
If you think dehydrators are just for people on a raw food diet, think again. While you can certainly make treats, fruit and other raw delights in a dehydrator, you can also use it to make coconut yogurt and vegan jerky. If you want one, see The Best Brands of Dehydrators for All Your Raw Food Creations. On the other hand, if you’re not ready to invest in a dehydrator, you can still dehydrate foods without a machine. Arrange the food you want to dehydrate on a non-stick baking sheet and put it in the oven on the lowest setting possible. For some ovens, that may be 200 degrees or even less. If you want an even lower temperature, try keeping the oven door open. Let the food “cook” for about half the time you would in a dehydrator but check it often to see when it’s done to your liking. If you live in a warm climate or get a lot of sun in your window, you could try drying your food in the sun.
7. Bread Machine
When I was a child, my mother taught me how to make challah. It was an all-day process between the kneading and the multiple rises of the dough. She said the trick to a light challah was all in the kneading and she taught me to make the bread the way her mother taught her. Today, when I make my Vegan Challah, I wouldn’t dream of putting the dough into a bread machine or a stand mixer. When I knead the dough by hand, I feel connected to my heritage and I get a lot of my frustrations out too! Because so many people have bread machines, many recipes are written assuming you do also. The good news is that any bread machine recipe can be made by hand, the biggest difference being the order of adding ingredients. The basic formula for making yeast bread by hand is: dissolve yeast in warm water and allow to proof. Combine all dry ingredients in one bowl and all wet ingredients (including the yeast) in another. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until you have a soft dough. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Set it in a warm place to rise until doubled. Punch the dough down, shape it as desired and let rise again (although challah has 3 rises). Bake as directed. Use this method to make Mayim Bialik’s Hot Pretzel Challah, Whole-Wheat French Bread or Homemade Country White Bread.
Of course it’s nice to have some high-tech appliances and gadgets. I’d fight anyone who tried to take my food processor away but I still grate potatoes by hand for my latkes and bake donuts without a donut pan. Whether it’s by choice or by necessity, it’s invaluable to know how to cook without gadgets and appliances in case you ever have to.
Lead Image Photo: Top Rated Spiralizers on the Market to Try