Cooking was among my first hobbies, after tricycle riding and Lego. I was five years old when my mother taught me how to make scrambled eggs. I remember writing up a menu and taping it up to our front window. Legibility may have been why I went without any customers. Not sure.
This eventually led to my first non-paper-route job, working as the lone ‘cook’ in the ‘kitchen’ of a fast food chain that has virtually vanished from Canada. I toiled in several kitchens working up to one of Toronto’s most famous, at the time. It was there that I realized that chef life wasn’t for me. As well, I had pretty much stopped cooking at home, so I started to look for another career. Finding one, I returned to my home kitchen to cook for pleasure again. Now, many years later, I have not only treated friends and family to a number of dishes, most with great success, but I’ve also done the out of the ordinary, like grind meat, brine turkeys, fry doughnuts, can pickles, bake bread, dehydrate veggies and make ice cream. I’d like to think I’m fearless in the kitchen. At least, I’m certainly not afraid to fail.
So, when I was offered the opportunity to pick a handful of Hamilton Beach kitchen appliances, I knew I had to go deep and look for products that would bring more adventure to my kitchen. I love what they offer and it was hard picking just a few. So, here’s what I got and why.
The most exciting appliance was the Electric Pasta Maker. Sure, lovely Italian-made dry pasta is readily available for cheap. But after using this appliance, going back to packaged spaghetti is going to be difficult. For every claim that store-bought is just too cheap and easy to walk away from, I argue that this item makes even cheaper pasta that is higher quality than anything dried. Four cups of all-purpose flour, two eggs and a splash of water make enough delicious pasta for feed a family of four. Sure, it takes longer than opening a package but anything great takes more time than the easy way. If you can measure out some flour, the Electric Pasta Maker does everything else for you except cut the pasta to size and cook it. It measures, mixes, kneads and extrudes a variety of pasta. I was happily surprised to find that after adding 4 cups of flour, this device told me how much liquid was required. An internal scale takes the measuring off your list. I learned the hard way that it knows better than I did. A drier looking dough is what you need. The reason for this is that the hopper for the extruder requires a looser mix so the mixing hooks can move the dough in easier. A few times, I found myself ripping the dough into smaller pieces and hand-feeding it into the extruder. My only other complaint is that the instruction manual feels a bit vague. However, it’s easy to learn by trial with this appliance.
My first go with it, I made a vegetable lasagna. The noodles were easy enough to make, but the recipe book didn’t say if the noodles needed to be boiled first or if they could bake on their own. I assumed they did. The result was unanimously decided to be delicious. The noodles were soft on the outside but had a bit of bite in the middle. They baked like champs in Hamilton Beach’s Digital Countertop Oven. My second use was for a dinner with friends. This time, I decided to make ricotta mushroom penne. After effortlessly making and cooking the penne, I tossed it with a mixture of ricotta, onion, garlic and mushroom purée. Topped with fresh chopped parsley and parmesan, it was one of the best pastas I’ve ever eaten. Without bragging too much, everyone eating it proclaimed the same. The raves weren’t just over the rich sauce, but the perfect texture of the penne. I can’t wait to try new recipes with the Electric Pasta Maker in the future with the other 5 noodle shape discs (that handily store right in the appliance).
Hamilton Beach’s 4.5 Quart Digital MultiCooker looks like a rice cooker on steroids. It has settings for every rice in the world, it seems, but this appliance offers so much more. I look forward to when I do actually make rice in it. I’ve been making soups and chili in it instead. I made the sauce for the aforementioned lasagna in it so simply. I literally did the roughest chop of onions, peppers and mushrooms along with a jar of crushed tomatoes plus seasonings and put it all on high for an hour. The sealed environment of the cooker had everything cooked perfectly in that time so all I had to do was purée everything right in the pot with an immersion blender. Being able to set and forget a cooker allows you to keep busy on other things that require more attention. It’s smart enough to automatically shut off if it determines that there isn’t enough liquid inside saving a scorched cleanup. It’s super easy to clean and stores away. It’s like having an extra stovetop burner that you can put elsewhere. It’s a large appliance but this sucker can make TWENTY cups of cooked rice if you ever needed it. The size is a blessing when whipping up large batches of soup or sauces as well as rice. You can sear and brown in the cooker saving cleaning up multiple pots. I love cooking with the multicooker.
Part two of this review follows on Thursday.