I bought the mini food processor at an outlet years ago, for around $20. I wanted the real deal, but it just wasn't in the budget. "Why not?" I asked myself, "What do I have to lose, other than $20?" But this was the little processor that could, and it got used often, even after the 14-cup model made its way into my kitchen. The other day, I dropped the prep bowl one too many times and it cracked for good.
Thus far, it had been working just fine, in spite of constant abuse and a few cracks and chips. This time, the crack extended to the bottom of the bowl, and the dressing for Mai Pham's Ginger Noodle Salad leaked onto the counter. I make that family favorite often, so this just wouldn't do.
→ A cookbook full of our family favorites: Mai Pham's The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking
Before, the cracks were only on the side, a problem solved by wrapping the bowl in a dish towel before processing liquid ingredients. Yes, this did dirty an extra dish towel, but I hate to throw something out if I can still make it go!
Luckily, I was able to salvage enough dressing for our dinner, but I knew I couldn't do without the little processor that could for long. How else would I make the dressing for our favorite noodles, or quickly dice just one onion for a pot of spaghetti sauce? The mini chopper is the only way to go if you don't want to pull out the blender or heavy, full-sized food processor.
I went to the closest strip mall the very next day and looked for a new one in Bed, Bath and Beyond. Alas, they only had a fancy version of my Cuisinart for $59.99, and my 20 percent coupon had expired the day before. Two doors down at Target, I found a KitchenAid model for $39.99, double what I had paid nearly 20 years earlier, but it had to be done. I don't regret it, but was a little sad to learn that I could have had the lime green model for the same price. The new model was on the counter within hours, quickly and efficiently chopping an onion for that evening's dinner.
Though I bought the first one on a whim, I really can't do without the mini chopper. I use it at least twice a week, for various tasks.
- Making small batches of pesto
- Chopping just one onion or a handful of garlic
- Whipping up salad dressing, including delicious homemade ranch or Thousand Island
- Finely dicing vegetables for a dinner's worth of salsa
- Pureeing an avocado for a single serving of guacamole
- Blending herbs and cream cheese for a quick plate of appetizers
- Pureeing duck confit for venison Wellington
- Making just enough bread crumbs out of a handful of crackers or toast
- Grinding dried herbs and spices to a powder, like coriander or rosemary
What would you immediately replace in your kitchen if it broke tomorrow? Have you ever bought something on a whim and had it become an essential part of your cooking routine?