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World's Best Kitchen Gadget-The KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer
Many years ago, when I was a newlywed, I attempted to make chocolate chip cookies. It took several hours to produce dry, over-baked, over-mixed, hard-as-rocks cookies. I had tried to mix the dough with a hand mixer we had received as a wedding gift and a wide mixing bowl. Flour flew everywhere and the beaters became clogged with the dense dough. I was left wondering why anyone would bother making homemade cookies when there are perfectly good ones sold at the bakery.
Fast forward a few years. My husband and I became parents of two beautiful children and I left my career to become a full-time mother. The budget was pretty tight but we were determined to make it work. Buying prepared foods was no longer an option so I decided to give the cookie baking another go. Thankfully, my family gifted me something that changed everything: the KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer. That one kitchen gadget turned me from a woman who was afraid to bake anything to one who wanted to make everything from scratch.
One gadget does many jobs.
I'm going to be honest, here. I'm just a regular, middle class mom with a regular, middle class home. While I admire those massive kitchens I see on HGTV with huge amounts of storage, that's just not a reality for me. Because my kitchen is of an average size, I don't buy a ton of kitchen gadgets. The gadgets and tools I do have must be multi-purpose and they must not take up a huge amount of space. There are several attachments you can purchase for your KitchenAid stand mixer and most are small and easily stored in a nook or cranny of your cabinet. Here are a few of the kitchen tools this mixer can replace:
- Food grinder. If you're like me, you don't like not knowing what is in all of the sausages and ground meats you find at the store. With your own food grinder, you select the cuts of meat that goes in them and control the seasonings and spices of your sausage. The grinder can also be used to make your own bread crumbs--a great use of stale bread that we all seem to have on hand.
- Sausage stuffer. You'll find that the food grinder attachment is a multi-purpose one. The sausage stuffer attaches the the food grinder and allows you to make either small breakfast sausage or large sausages or Brats. Tip: If you are having a hard time finding sausage casings, visit your local hunting and fishing store. They will usually have what you are looking for.
- Pasta maker. Once again, the food grinder is a multi-tasker. Simply attach whatever pasta plate you desire and let the mixer do the work. You can make thin spaghetti, thick spaghetti, flat noodles, macaroni or lasagna.
- Pasta roller. My family loves ravioli and one of their favorite dinners on a fun weekend night is our "make-your-own-ravioli night". We place a variety of fillings in bowls on the counter, roll out the dough and everybody has a ball creating their very own ravioli. Of course the kids eat it right up because nothing tastes better than something you made yourself.
- Slicer/shredder. Finely or coarsly shred hard, crisp vegetables, firm cold cheeses, coconut and dry bread. Slice thick or thin pieces of firm vegetables or nuts. Are you storing a food processor somewhere in your cupboards? Me, too. As soon as mine breaks, I'm going to buy this nifty space-saving attachment.
- Grain mill. For the home cook who likes taking home-made to a whole new level. This attachment allows you to grind your own flour.
- Ice cream maker. I haven't had a chance to see this work yet, but there is now an ice cream attachment available for this mixer.
- Lest we forget...it's a really great mixer. I marvel when watching shows like Food Network's "Chopped". Sometimes the chef-contestants fail because they can't get a meringue whipped up in time or whip cream. They sit there and beat the mixture by hand. Even with a regular hand mixer, the job is time intensive. With my stand mixer, I turn it on and then turn my attention to a different part of my recipe. Of course, I keep an eye on it but it sure does beat standing over the mixture. For the life of me, I don't know why those contestants don't just use the stand mixer that I clearly see on the counter. Maybe it's a chef-y thing to do, whipping things by hand. I'll take the easy way out thank you. I'm using the stand mixer.
KitchenAid Stand Mixer for Baking
I use this mixer exclusively when baking. When making cookies, I use the pastry attachment. It cuts through and mixes the dough with ease without over-mixing. Home bakers know that the secret to working with any dough is to not over-mix. That's a lot easier to do with a mixer that's powerful enough to handle the ingredients. I use the same attachment to make my tender, flakey pie crusts. In the past, I used a bread machine to mix my dough. I never baked in the machine because I didn't appreciate my bread being shaped like a bullet or having a hole in the bottom from the paddle. Now, I just throw the ingredients into my stand mixer, attach the dough hook and the result is a smooth, elastic dough for a beautiful, tender bread. Thanks to this mixer and my recipe for One Hour Yeast Rolls, I can have homemade bread for any meal in a jiffy.
The Pasta Attachment
One of my favorite features of this mixer is the pasta extruding attachment and the pasta roller attachment. I used to have a bulky pasta maker. It was not a pasta roller--it only extruded. So, with the large machine, I could make spaghetti, pappardelle, fettuccine and long macaroni. It worked okay for awhile, but it's cheap plastic parts soon fell apart. Another downside is that I had to find room to store the large machine. With a simple addition of a small attachment to the top of the KitchenAid Stand Mixer, I had a pasta maker. With the same machine I can mix and shape the pasta so, no additional large items to store. I also use the pasta roller attachment when making ravioli.
I don't have all of the attachments available for this device but the ones that I do have--food grinder, pasta extruder, pasta roller, sausage stuffer--work like a charm and are easy to store. I have been using a KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer since 1998. We have only purchased one. I abused my machine by overloading the pasta extruder once and caused the motor to overheat. Lesson learned I called the service center. Since they were unable to repair the machine they replaced it for us. The best part was, I was able to choose a different color. My lovely red KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer looks beautiful on my counter top. I highly recommend this product.