The story of Little Red Riding Hood isn’t really about the perils of taking shortcuts. Rather, the lesson is probably more about noticing when a close family member has grown fangs and fur overnight; shortcuts are good.
In the kitchen, the single most significant shortcut you can take has to be a food processor. Chances are that both your family’s health and what precious little free time you have rank high on your list of stuff that’s important. With a food processor, you don’t need to choose one over the other.
- A Satisfying Saturday Morning Breakfast
- Thursday, 8:00 P.M.
- Special Treats for Special Times
- Cheap, Quick and Nutritious Family Meals
A Satisfying Saturday Morning Breakfast
Getting the whole family around the dining table at the same time is very much like herding cats, especially when all those cats have wildly different schedules and interests. The best time to corral them is before they’ve had a chance to dart out the door, and short of an act of God, delicious smells wafting out of the kitchen may do the trick.
Potatoes and onions are a match made in heaven. Whether you call it pommes de terre à la lyonnaise, tortilla española, rösti or just hashbrowns, the sweetness of the onions pairs perfectly with potatoes’ solidity.
Many people prefer to make hashbrowns with potato only, perhaps using some onion and garlic powder to season it. Sliced or shredded onions add an extra texture, though, and takes this from being a boring side dish to almost a meal on its own.
- If you like hashbrowns with a lighter consistency, shred the potatoes without boiling them first and rinse off the starch in a colander.
- Assuming that your food processor has a good selection of discs, you should experiment with textures a little. Try shredding the potatoes coarsely for a more crispy result.
- You’ll have no problem substituting sweet potatoes for the regular kind in this, and in fact most potato recipes.
- Potato skins contain a lot of nutrition and fiber, so there’s no need to peel potatoes if you’re going to shred them anyway.
- Since you have a food processor, it’s up to you whether you want to make small batches every time you have the craving, or shred away and freeze the result.
Nut Butter Muffins
Anything tastes better with some peanut butter in it – well, maybe not absolutely everything, but breakfast pastries and even celery sticks definitely benefit from its creamy goodness.
Some people, unfortunately, can’t eat it, due to either a life-threatening allergy or more general health concerns about the stuff you find in the supermarket.
In the latter case, you can always use your food processor to create your own peanut butter from scratch, with no harmful additives at all. Even if you’re not allergic, the experience may entice you to start trying all kinds of nut butters. These are not hard to make yourself and can provide a delicious protein boost to your favorite treats.
Unfortunately, all nuts don’t have the same fat content, so you can’t simply replace the peanut butter in your favorite recipes with whichever one you’re trying out today. This doesn’t mean you don’t have a ton of options, though; apart from peanut butter muffins, you can also create some delicious treats using cashew, almond and sunflower seed butter muffins.
- One of the best things about muffins is that they freeze well – mix and bake a couple of dozen for a totally pain-free breakfast on the run later in the week.
- There’s no real secret to making nut butter in a food processor; but remember that you can use either raw or toasted nuts, or some combination of the two.
- Though a food processor is indispensable for making the nut butter itself, muffin dough containing wheat flour should only be combined, not churned to within an inch of its life. If using your processor for this step, stick to the Pulse button and don’t overwork it.
Homemade Breakfast Sausage
Most people could do with a little less red meat in their diet. On the other hand, getting plenty of protein at breakfast is a pretty healthy choice in some ways. Sticking with cereal can cause your blood sugar to skyrocket in the morning, leading to an inevitable slump along with low productivity and excessive snacking later in the day.
Eggs are most people’s go-to option, and whizzing them in the food processor for a few minutes before cooking does produce scrumptious, fluffy scrambled eggs. There is another option though: creating your own breakfast sausages from scratch.
Many food processors will struggle at least a little with the task of chopping up meat. If you’re serious about making this dish a regular part of breakfast, you may want to go with a dedicated meat grinder like the Mosaic Food Processor.
Other models should still work as long as you don’t overload them, but the Mosaic makes it easier to get exactly the texture you desire. In any case, pulse the meat for only about a second at a time before checking the results. This recipe can work with large, rustic chunks as well as meat that’s almost been turned to pâté, but most people will prefer a texture somewhere between those extremes.
- Grinding your own meat allows you to choose fattier or leaner cuts, but don’t go to extremes. A little fat is necessary for flavor and texture.
- With pork, it’s almost mandatory to include at least a little sweetness in the seasonings. In this case, the recipe specifies marsala, but you could also use honey, maple syrup or plain brown sugar.
- While making a batch of several pounds is a bit of a chore, you can divide it into portions and freeze almost indefinitely. Knowing that you’ve created something yourself always makes it taste better.
- There’s no reason not to serve this dish as pan-fried patties. For grilling, however, you’ll find that a stuffing machine and sausage casings aren’t hard to come by.
Thursday, 8:30 P.M.
Getting home after a rough day is supposed to be a relief, if not actually the best part of your day. This is just not the case when the only thing ready to eat is Cheetos, a dozen other things need to get done before bed, and you have a gaggle of children who’re ready to resort to terrorism if that’s what it takes to get fed.
The best way to avoid this situation from arising is to start doing meal prep on the weekends. A close second, which also makes the first one easier, is to own a versatile food processor.
The following dishes can all be prepared with only minutes of hands-on work, leaving you with more time to relax while still feeding your family tasty, nutritious food that doesn’t come with disposable chopsticks.
Minestrone is the perfect dish for an autumn evening: nourishing, filling and attractive to look at. There must be well over a thousand unique recipes, each claiming to be the “perfect” minestrone, but as long as yours contains some mixture of vegetables, beans and aromatics, there’s very little that can go wrong with it.
Nagi from RecipeTinEats certainly believes so, adding her own flavor touches including bacon and Worcestershire sauce. You can change up her recipe yourself to suit your own tastes or make use of whatever veggies are in season. Serving it with some freshly baked bread turns it into a full meal, and it doesn’t need to take hours to prepare.
Part of this dish’s charm is it’s appearance: orange carrot, green zucchini and spinach and deep red kidney beans floating in the tomato base makes for a very appetizing kaleidoscope. Chopping the veggies with your food processor’s S-blade is fine, as is sending them through a fairly thick slicing disc. For maximum visual impact, though, you should dice them into equally sized cubes.
- You can make soup by dropping some vegetables into broth or tomato base, but pan-frying them in small batches first helps to caramelize them slightly, resulting in a much bolder flavor.
- If the pot you use is wide and thick-bottomed enough to fry your veggies in it to begin with, don’t forget to deglaze it. Unless it’s burnt black, the stuff sticking to the bottom is packed with flavor which you can easily release.
- If you choose to add pasta, particularly of the home-made variety, cook this separately and add just before serving to avoid it turning into mush.
- Drizzling a little bit of good-quality olive oil over the soup just after it’s hit the serving bowl is traditional and improves the taste remarkably. Parmesan cheese does no harm either.
- Making too much of this recipe is rarely a problem: it freezes perfectly and is substantial enough to work as a packed lunch.
10-Minute Vegetable Stir Fry
There are two basic secrets to creating the perfect stir fry: fry and stir.
Put in slightly different words, you need high heat and frequent motion, causing meat and vegetables to sear instead of steam (but without sticking, burning or using too much oil).
This is easily accomplished on a gas range, especially when you concentrate the flames. With an electric burner, you’ll need a good flat-bottomed wok and do only small portions at a time. You can also place your wok on a grill, or use a suitable suitable griddle if the weather isn’t conducive to cooking outdoors.
Another way of ensuring that your stir-fried vegetables come out perfectly – crisp yet cooked through and certainly not mushy – is to cut them thinly and evenly. This is exactly what a food processor like the Hamilton Beach 70820 excels at: with the adjustable slicing disc, you can carve harder veggies like carrots into a slices a uniform 1/32 inch thick, while softer ingredients that don’t require as much cooking (mushrooms, spring onions, bell peppers) can be left as chunky as ¼”.
In addition, you can use the fine shredding disc for fresh ginger, which is perfectly at home in almost any stir fry. Flipping this disc around, you have a useful tool for something like turnips. Ingredients like broccoli florets or baby sweetcorn can be left whole for a little variety in texture.
Which specific ingredients you use depends entirely on you and the contents of your fridge: you can keep things vegetarian with tofu or add thinly sliced pork, beef or chicken to the pan before removing this to cook the vegetables. You can stir in noodles or bulk up your dish with something low-carb and cheap like cabbage; serve it as side dish or make your stir fry the main event at dinner.
- Heat, heat, heeaat! Some Chinese restaurants actually use special ranges that feed pure oxygen into the gas supply, which is definitely a “don’t try this at home” kind of appliance but explains why it’s difficult to replicate their food at home. Let your wok get as hot as you dare before you add anything to it – for the sake of your health and safety, you may not want the oil to actually start smoking, but this is the way it’s done in many Asian countries.
- There’s nothing wrong with using a bare-bones sauce to bring everything together when cooking is almost complete, but a little creativity can spice things up considerably.
- Aside from using a sauce, marinating sliced meat for only a few minutes in a mixture of rice wine, soy sauce, cornstarch, salt and pepper will keep it more moist and improve its flavor.
Homemade 5-Minute Spaghetti Sauce
Despite the name, marinara (sailor’s) sauce contains no seafood, though it combines very well with things like shrimp or clams. Garlic, olive oil, basil and tomatoes are pretty much the only ingredients that go into it. Supposedly, the name comes from the notion that a fisherman’s wife could start cooking this sauce when she saw her husband’s boat enter the harbor, and still have dinner ready by the time he stepped through the front door. If she had a food processor, she even wouldn’t have needed to peel and crush the tomatoes beforehand.
Just add some chili, and you have arrabbiata (angry) sauce; capers, olives and anchovies for puttanesca; bacon, and you have amatriciana. Clearly, this basic tomato sauce is just about the most versatile thing since sliced bread. I also have it on good authority, namely an Italian who cures his own pancetta, that a food processor exempts you from having to do things like seed and peel the tomatoes.
- Since this dish has so few ingredients, it’s really worthwhile getting the best quality you can find.
- There are dozens of ways to give the basic sauce a deeper or robust flavor: add a little ground beef or red wine, or simmer it along with a pork bone if you have the time.
- This same sauce, when processed to a silky-smooth texture and concentrated by simmering for an hour or three, is great for topping pizza bases.
Canned sardines are just fantastic in a number of ways: they’re dirt cheap, for one, as well as high in the omega oils necessary for proper heart and brain function. They’re also close to the bottom of the food chain and therefore one of the most ecologically responsible fishes you can buy, in addition to having very low levels of mercury.
Their major drawback is that deboning them takes more patience than the average parent has left at the end of the workday, and kids who aren’t used to their seafood containing crunchy bits are likely to object. These bones do, however, make sardines a great source of calcium – so why not use your food processor to chop up those bones?
This essentially means turning dinner into fish-and-vegetable croquettes, one good recipe for which you can find here. Just add one drained 3.75 oz can of sardines, either packed in tomato sauce or vegetable oil, and puree the fish before combining with the veggies you’ve just chopped or grated using your food processor. This recipe uses dried, powdered mashed potatoes, which speeds things up considerably, but if you don’t have time to chill them before cooking, you may want to add an egg or two.
Once the cakes have been baked or pan-fried, the outside should have crusted into a crispy texture nobody will be willing to refuse, the interior remaining deliciously soft and moist. The grated or chopped veggies inside provide a little extra bite. If you’re really short of time, you can skip coating each croquette with breadcrumbs, but this isn’t actually that much of a chore (and your food processor makes getting a small amount of breadcrumbs a blitz, literally).
- Mackerel works much the same and has similar nutritional benefits.
- If your children really hate vegetables passionately, you can also use this recipe with cooked, ground chicken or turkey, or incorporate some finely chopped vegetables into meatballs.
- How you shape your croquettes is up to you: steak-sized slabs, sticks you can dunk into a dipping sauce, or little fishies.
- You can also freeze these on a tray lined with baking parchment. Once they’re solid, toss them into a bag and voila: your own homemade, healthy fish sticks for emergencies.
Special Treats for Special Times
For pretty much anyone between the ages of three and thirteen, dessert is the high point of any meal. Serving something sweet can even make the difference between plates being cleaned – perhaps with some pro forma grumbling – and dinner turning into battle of wills.
However, though it may work wonders as a bribe to get kids to eat their vegetables, dessert doesn’t have to be nothing but empty calories. Sweets are an excellent way of introducing some fruit and – for vegetarian households – protein into a child’s diet, and they’ll even thank you for it.
Banana Ice Cream
Freeze some bananas, pop them and a little vanilla essence into a food processor, puree them, and you have something remarkably like ice cream in seconds. That’s literally it: a delicious, healthy dessert in under a minute.
To keep things from getting boring, you can also add Nutella (one tablespoon per banana), whichever nut butter you prefer, mint leaves, frozen or fresh berries, food coloring, coconut milk, cookies – you can basically go nuts, which is another ingredient you’ll have to try out.
- For best results, the bananas should be just short of overripe.
- Peeling them once frozen is something of a mess, so do this beforehand and cut them into chunks before freezing.
- You can aim for a softer texture by adding a little milk, or harden it up again by re-freezing it.
Some people prefer baked cheesecake and others like the chilled variety more, but very few in either camp will refuse a slice of either. Apart from being delicious, cheesecake also looks difficult to make – in reality, you can bang one out in less than ten minutes with only a little practice.
This recipe from Matt uses sweetened condensed milk, but you can also add extra sugar and use heavy whipping cream instead for a somewhat fluffier result. Just make sure that your cream cheese is at room temperature and not low-fat or fat-free: a little oiliness helps it to keep its shape once whipped.
Usually, the main flavor of a cheesecake comes from the creaminess of the cheese offset by a little lemon juice, but you can let your creativity run wild with toppings: fresh or preserved fruit, sprinkles, maple syrup or whatever happens to be in your pantry.
- A food processor gives you the option of using either a shortcrust base or, as in this recipe, cracker crumbs.
- Fridge cheesecake is always going to be a little more runny than the baked kind, so don’t pile the filling on too ambitiously.
- This recipe may be quick to make, but do give your cheesecake time to set properly – take it out of the fridge too soon, and you’ll end up with something like sweet cheese soup with graham cracker croutons.
Not everyone knows this, but you can bake a variety of cakes with a base of mashed potato, carrot and even zucchini – these provide the bulk and most of the texture, while flour makes up the crumbs that feel so good in your mouth and helps everything stick together.
In contrast to cheesecake and banana ice cream, a good carrot cake takes a while to prepare, but also provides several portions and should keep every member of your family satisfied for a couple of days. In fact, since your food processor allows you to shred as much carrot as you want without endangering your fingernails, you may as well bake two at a time.
Zoë François’ recipe may look like it has a lot of ingredients, but most will probably be found in your pantry anyway. The spices give the finished cake an extra flavor dimension, and you can always substitute or supplement the dried fruit with some raisins. One thing I like to do is combine these and the shredded carrot with the brown sugar and let them marinate together for about 15 minutes, which does seem to add a little bit of extra flavor – as does a couple of tablespoons of dark rum!
- This recipe seems like it contains a lot of oil, but reduce this amount at your peril. The final result isn’t at all greasy.
- The cake has to be completely cool before you apply the icing, or you’ll end up with a gigantic mess.
- Blending the icing mixture in a food processor makes it more consistent, while a hand mixer leaves it a little airier – either is fine, though.
Cheap, Quick and Nutritious Family Meals
As long as you don’t attempt something really complicated, trying a new recipe takes you out of your comfort zone exactly once. By the time you’ve prepared a dish three or four times, following the recipe becomes almost automatic and you can start trying your own variations.
What’s stopping us from taking this (very rewarding) step is often just a lack of time and energy. We all want our families to stay slim, have more energy, be happier and think more clearly – all of which rely on eating healthily. It’s easy to forget about this resolution when the thought of slicing up a few pounds of vegetables just seems like too much, though.
This is why a good food processor is such a great investment: it’s a lot easier to put on your chef hat when a robot is doing 90% of the work. If you’re currently looking for one, don’t let the cost discourage you too much: within a year, you’ll probably save twice that amount on takeout food alone.