If you own a mixer-blender (or a mixer and a blender, separately), you may not realize all the ways you can use it.
As I'm describing these sneaky kitchen tricks, I'm referring to the mixer-blender I use. That's the Blendtec Mix n 'Blend. It's the most important counter top appliance in my kitchen.
However, if you have a blender – from a $ 15 special you found at a sale, to a Bosch or Vitamix – and any mixer, such as a Kitchen Aid mixer, these tips can work just as well.
Here are the three unusual uses for your kitchen mixer-blender:
A lot of people haul out a big bowl or pot and try to hand-stir the ingredients into their meatloaf.
Since a car accident a few years ago, my arms and shoulders are not very strong. So, I throw the ground meat, the eggs, the bread crumbs, the Worcestershire sauce, the tomato paste, and the seasonings into the bowl of my Blendtec mixer. Then, I use the dough-kneading attachment to mix it thoroughly.
My meatloaf meals are legendary. People do not understand why my meatloaf turns out so differently from theirs. The simple answer is, mine is thoroughly mixed. Consistency makes all the difference!
Pumpkin or Pecan Pie
I use my mixer for pumpkin pies and pecan pies. My pies always attract raves from friends and family.
However, I have another wonderful pie recipe. It's a combination pumpkin and pecan pie. I start with a prepared pie crust and spread the pecan pie mixture over it. That mixture is chopped pecans, brown sugar, and maybe a drizzle of honey.
Over that, I pour the pumpkin pie filling. It's mostly the prepared, mashed pumpkin with a couple of eggs, some cream, sugar and seasonings. Then, I bake it.
The secret is the mixer. Most people mix pie ingredients by hand, in a bowl. That's okay, but it will not transform your pecan pie into a gourmet delight.
I take the pecan pie ingredients, and mix them using the whisk-type attachment for my Blendtec mixer. When that's thoroughly mixed, the finished pie tastes much better. There are no extra-dry bites with just pecan pieces, and no oh-my-goodness bites with too much cinnamon or cloves.
Then, I rinse the bowl (it does not have to be pristine for the next step) and whip together the pumpkin pie ingredients. I use a fast setting – around 4 on my Blendtec Mix n 'Blend – for about 20 seconds, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
That's what I pour (or spoon) over the pecan pie ingredients, before I bake the pie in the oven.
When I serve this at Thanksgiving or Christmas, I top it with rich vanilla ice cream. My guests rave about this dessert.
My family avoids artificial ingredients and complex sweeteners. However, as much as we love store-bought eggnog, it's almost impossible to find "real" eggnog without those complex sweeteners … and a few artificial flavors and preservatives.
Real eggnog is ridiculously easy to make. It's a mix of whole eggs, milk, and any sweetener. That's the whole recipe, right there.
For healthy eggnog, you can use honey. Otherwise, sugar works well. For something that tastes identical to the not-so-healthy store-bought eggnogs, use confectioners (powdered) sugar. Add a dash of vanilla and nutmeg, and you're all set.
You can even add extra ingredients to match the gourmet eggnogs at the store. A little cooked (or straight from the can) mashed pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice can add richness.
Or, extra vanilla and some heavy cream will give that "French vanilla" flavor. Add some cream and a few drops of peppermint flavor for a "candy cane" eggnog.
You'll notice that I did not provide an exact recipe. That's because you do not need one. Almost any mix of these ingredients will make a good eggnog. Once you've mixed it up in your mixer (like a Blendtec or Kitchen Aid blender), taste it and adjust the ingredients to suit your family.
However, people always ask me about the safety of raw eggs. If you've seen TV cooks such as Martha Stewart prepare eggnog, you may have seen them use raw eggs, too.
Because we use organic eggs that we buy from a local farmer we trust, we rarely cook our eggnog. It's always been fine. That's a risk we take, but for food safety reasons, we can not recommend it to others.
Especially if you're using store-bought eggs, start with fresh, refrigerated grade A or AA eggs. Be sure the shells are intact and clean , and do not have even a hint of a crack in them. Some people wash the eggs – before cracking them – with anti-bacterial dish soap, and then rinse them thoroughly. After that, be very sure the egg whites and yolks have minimal contact with the shells, and wash your hands well, after cracking them. Generally, the salmonella is on the outside of the shell, not in the egg itself, until you crack it.
For extra care, it's smart to heat your eggnog in a saucepan. You'll heat it almost to boiling, but not quite. The candy thermometer should reach 160 degrees, and you'll need to stir the eggnog steadily or the eggs will coagulate. (If they do, do not worry. I'll explain that, below.)
Here's a tip if you like rum or bourbon in your eggnog: If you add the liquor before you heat the eggnog, the alcohol may evaporate due to the high temperatures. That keeps the flavor of the liquor, but the missing alcohol means the eggnog is safer for children. On the other hand, if you're serving your eggnog as an alcoholic beverage, add the liquor right before you serve the eggnog.
Once you've heated the eggnog, let it cool. If it's become lumpy – and it usually has – you'll use your Blendtec blender (or any kitchen blender) to whirl it smooth again. Gradually increase the blender speed until you're near the fastest setting. That's what breaks up the bits of egg.
If lumps remain, pour the eggnog through a kitchen sieve, strainer or colander. Press the lumps through, using a spoon. (Wooden or plastic spoons work best.)
Then, refrigerate the eggnog until it's chilled and refreshing. If you've used raw eggs, you'll need to serve it within a few hours. If you've cooked your eggnog, it will usually stay fresh for two or three days. (It will not last that long. Everyone loves homemade eggnog, and it's healthy enough to serve as an alternative to "instant breakfast" products.)
When I serve eggnog to guests, most of them can not tell it's homemade. They're sure I bought some wonderful gourmet eggnog.
One more tip: If you're making "cream of something" soup from scratch and it turns out lumpy, use your blender to whirl it to an even consistency. You may like it even better than overpriced canned soups you used to buy.
So, now you know three unusual ways to use your mixer-blender. In my kitchen, I'm using a Blendtec Mix n 'Blend. It's an appliance I've used happily for more than 15 years, and when this one wears out, I'll buy another one.
Once you've tried these three unusual ways to use your mixer-blender, I'm sure you'll find other routine kitchen chores you can make easier with a mixer-blender, too.