Do you ever look at a kitchen gadget or tool and think "I wonder if I'd use that?". Yeah.... me too.
So I thought I would do a series on three gadgets I would have normally thought were a big, fat waste of money and kitchen space, yet have wound up becoming indispensable to me in my never ending quest to eat healthier.
The first "gadget" (although it's really more of an appliance) I am going to herald the value of is my bread machine:
My first bread machine was given to me 13 years ago, I believe it was, by my then-mother-in-law. I remember opening it and thinking "Oh, yeesh! Some big thing I'll never use and have to find a place in my already-too-small kitchen for." Suffice it to say, I was less than thrilled.
But, because she had paid good money for the thing and couldn't stop talking about hers, I dutifully read the instructions and put the ingredients for a loaf of bread in it. I thought it would be inedible and I'd never use it again. Instead it kneaded, let rise, kneaded again, let rise again and then baked a loaf of bread just as delicious as any I'd made the hard way (read: tons and tons of kneading) in the past. It was shaped tall instead of long, which made a rather funny looking loaf. But to get a homemade loaf of bread for almost no effort, what did I care how it looked? We were just going to eat it, anyhow.
Here is a picture of the inside, so you can see how the pan is shaped. This should explain why the loaf is tall instead of the traditional long shape:
And that started my love of bread machines.
I finally used that old bread machine to death. Literally. It died mid-loaf one day when it just stopped kneading. I replaced it promptly with the Corner Bakery brand bread machine pictured above.
Then I started on a quest to improve my health and the bread machine turned into a towel hanger for a long period of time.
One day I found myself with an overwhelming amount of ground flaxseed. There was no way I could use it all up before it went bad. The bread machine caught my eye. I'd been developing recipes of my own and thought "I wonder.......?????". As I Googled whole wheat flax breads I started to figure out the basic principles of how to bake with flaxseed. So on a wing and a prayer I tossed what I believed to be the correct ingredients into my beloved bread machine. Sure enough, out came a delicious and chewy whole wheat bread to rival anything else I'd ever tasted.
It was official: My bread machine and I were dating again.
Since then, not only have I regularly used it for a variety of whole wheat breads (one of our favorites is an Italian Herb Bread recipe I created), but I have also used it on the "dough" setting for whole wheat rolls AND (I saved the best for last!) a wonderful whole-wheat pizza dough that I developed a recipe for. Topped with my grandma's pizza sauce, part-skim mozzarella, fresh-grated Parmesan, lean meats, and sliced fresh veggies...... it's hard to top a home-made, delicious, and healthy pizza.
And let me tell ya, the bread machine makes the whole process a LOT easier! Just toss the ingredients in, put it on "dough" setting, and let it do the hard part. When your machine screams at you that it's done, take the pan out, punch the risen dough down, cover it, and stick it in the fridge until ready to use. Being cold makes it a little easier to handle and gives the crust a nice texture when you bake it.
Double bonus? My teenage daughter, who would rather skip breakfast, will gladly eat leftover pizza for breakfast the next morning. It's a healthy breakfast chock-full of whole grains, good fats, proteins, and even a few veggies to fuel her pretty little head for school.
I love knowing what is in the foods that my family is eating. By using the bread machine, I am able to avoid any chemicals or "what is that?" type ingredients that I often find on packaged breads, doughs, and crusts. And, of course, fresh-baked always tastes better.