Tasty Tools: Assistive Technology in the Kitchen (Part 6)

Kitchenaid stand mixer

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

Welcome back to our Assistive Technology in the Kitchen series, Part 6 :-)!  Today we are talking about using a stand mixer (or standing mixer) as an Assistive Technology support in the kitchen!  

Graphic of a handheld mixer with beatersMixing by hand can require precision, endurance, and fine motor control.  Handheld, electric beaters can be difficult to use; holding the power button down can take a lot of grip/pinch strength and holding the device itself takes a fair amount of upper body strength. Knowing I can set the stand mixer to do its job makes cooking and baking seem less daunting and more accessible to me. 

When you think of a stand mixer what comes to mind?  Having a lot of time available to “play” in the kitchen?  That’s what I thought at first too and I couldn’t justify spending a larger sum of money on something I’d maybe use once a week.  But then I searched “uses for kitchenaid stand mixers” on Pinterest and found that (along with other surprising uses), I could shred cooked chicken breast using a stand mixer!  

2 forks shredding cooked chickenI have been making bbq chicken in my slow cooker for years, but there’s a step in the recipe where I need to shred the cooked chicken with 2 folks.  Using 2 forks to shred up a protein (even if tender) can require upper body strength, fine motor control, and muscle endurance.  Not to mention that your hands are really close/touching hot meat and that can be painful.  By using the stand mixer to shred the chicken, I now just use tongs to place the hot, cooked chicken into the mixer, mix for 30 seconds on low with the paddle attachment, and all my chicken is all shredded and ready for bbq sauce & bun (maybe a little coleslaw too)!  😉

Shredded BBQ chicken sandwich, topped with coleslaw

I use my mixer with the whisk attachment whenever I want something really thoroughly mixed: Jello, instant pudding, ranch dressing/dip, fluffy eggs for scrambled eggs & omelets, box cake mix, meat for meatballs & meatloaf, etc.  

Tray of soft pretzelsStand mixers often come with that paddle attachment I mentioned with the shredded chicken, the whisk attachment, and a dough hook attachment.  You can make lots of great, yeasty dough’s for soft pretzels, breads, rolls, etc. using the dough hook.  I especially love using the dough hook to make quick breads; the dough hook attachment doesn’t over mix and ends up giving them the best texture!

  • Pro tip 1: When I bought my mixer, I purchased a second bowl & paddle attachment so that when I was making a recipe that required 2 different batters or preparations, I didn’t have to stop to wash my one bowl & paddle.  The bowls I have are the lighter, stainless steel ones.  Kitchenaid has some pretty ceramic and glass bowls available, but they are heavy and therefore can be cumbersome to use, wash, scrape batter out of, etc.  In addition to the food weight inside of the bowl, the glass & ceramic bowls add 3 additional pounds!  

Stand mixer with ceramic mixing bowl

  • Pro tip 2: Stand mixers are heavy and can be difficult to lift (even just to scooch over a bit).  Mine lives on my counter so I don’t have to deal with moving it to store it after I’m done using it (besides, it’s pretty and I like looking it lol).  I’ve found that by putting small, furniture felt pads on the bottom of the stand, the mixer scooches around on the counter a lot more easily.  And if the pads get dirty they are easily replaceable.

3 stand mixersStand mixers in general are relatively expensive and if you’re going for the bright, colorful, and popular models (ahem, Kitchenaid), be prepared to pay $300-$400.  I saved for a few years before I purchased mine and during that time did a lot of research to find out which model would be best for me.  After visiting stores (Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table tend to have various models in their stores) to physically touch the mixer controls & watching the America’s Test Kitchen equipment review of stand mixers, I purchased an Artisan Kitchenaid Stand mixer (in the green apple color) with the “head tilt”.  I got mine from Kohl’s when it was on sale.  At that time, I had a 30% off coupon and they offered a rebate (saved me about $100).  I bet you could get the same deal if you checked their site (I think they list sales on Saturday’s) and keep your Kohl’s coupons/look up Kohl’s coupon codes.  Note: I wouldn’t recommend the Kitchenaid mini because I’ve seen that it doesn’t mix as well as the other models.

Do you have a stand mixer?  What do you use it for most?

If you missed them, check out Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, & Part 5 of this AT in the Kitchen series!

Tasty Tools: Assistive Technology in the Kitchen (Part 5)

Food processor containing cucumber slices

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

In Part 4 of this series, we had gotten back from grocery shopping, put our goods away and were starting to prep food for the week (remember those oven eggs?).  When I do my food prep for the week, it’s not typically right after I put all my food away (I’m usually tired & hungry and can get frustrated more easily.  Anyone else feel that way?) 😉  When I start prepping, it’s helpful and less overwhelming for me if I start with a clean(ish!) kitchen: my sink is usually clear, random things on my counters are put away, etc. I’ve found that this helps me keep my motivation/keeps me on task because I’m solely focusing on food prep (rather than also cleaning & putting random things away).  

Clean sink and counter top

A few years ago, I started looking into purchasing a food processor.  “A food processor is a kitchen appliance used to facilitate repetitive tasks in the preparation of food. Today, the term almost always refers to an electric-motor-driven appliance, although there are some manual devices also referred to as ‘food processors’.”

Food processor with attachments“Food processors are similar to blenders in many forms. The primary difference is that food processors use interchangeable blades and disks (attachments) rather than a fixed blade. Also, their bowls are wider and shorter, a more proper shape for the solid or semi-solid foods usually worked in a food processor. Usually, little or no liquid is required in the operation of the food processor, unlike a blender, which requires a certain amount of liquid for the particles to move around the blade.”

Food processors can be helpful for individuals who have support needs centered around fine motor use in their hands/arms: instead of holding a knife, cutting board, & the food item while trying to cut it, with a food processor one can “feed” food through the “feed tube” and the machine slices it for them.  I find my food processor specifically helpful because it can chop my veggies, fruit, and cheeses up for me via the slicing discs that came with my model.

Food processor blending solid food into liquidFood processors can also blend food to a puree/liquid consistency for salsas, soups, and for those who may need a liquid form of solid foods.

  • Pro tip: my food processor has “a specially designed locking system with leak-resistant [red] ring that allows you to fill the work bowl to capacity with ingredients.”  I really like this feature, but the ring is made of a rubbery material and makes it difficult to open and close.  An easy fix I’ve found is to rub a little vegetable oil on the seal & inside of the lid before I use my food processor (the lubrication from the oil doesn’t impact the seal’s ability to keep in liquids).

Loaves of french breadIn addition to chopping & grating food for me, I use my processor to make bread dough (it has a special blade for this).  Kneading bread dough the traditional way can take a lot of continuous upper body strength.  With a food processor, one can put the ingredients into the machine, push the button, and in a few minutes have bread dough ready.  

Hand cutting butter into flour using 2 butter knivesOne of my favorite uses for my food processor cutting butter into flour.  As I’ve said before in this series, I love baking!  For scones, biscuits, & pie crusts I need to use very cold bits of butter (the butter melts in the oven and produces steam which makes the flaky layers many of us love!)  Traditionally, a pastry cutter or two knives are used to cut the butter into the flour.  This process requires a lot of fine motor control and continuous upper body strength.  With my food processor, I measure in my flour, place my stick of butter in, and turn on the machine.  After a minute or less I have what I need to bake some up some deliciousness!

Big food processors can be expensive and it took me a while to make the decision to buy one.  I did a lot of research!  While I was deciding, I purchased a smaller one to see if I would really use it.  Though this smaller one does not slice food for me, it does chop it.  I use it to chop peppers, onions, and cheeses for quiches & omelets and to chop nuts & dried fruit for cookies & breads.  And the first pie crust I ever made was with this little processor.  

Mini Kitchenaid food processor

Do you have a food processor?  What do you use it for? 🙂

If you missed them, check out Part 1Part 2, and Part 3 of this AT in the Kitchen series!

Tasty Tools: Assistive Technology in the Kitchen (Part 4)

Whole eggs in a muffin pan, inside of an oven

By Jen Gosett, BS, CTRS, MATP Staff

Welcome back to our ‘AT in the Kitchen’ series!  Last time in Part 3 we went to the grocery store and utilized apps to grab groceries in efficient, supportive, and less stressful ways.  This time we are back in the kitchen with loads of fresh ingredients just begging to be chopped, cooked, and/or baked into deliciousness!  Eating healthy and using what’s on hand can be difficult for everyone; specifically individuals who have support needs centered around memory, organization, and sometimes motivation.  I don’t know if you’re like me, but once I have my fridge stocked, I can feel a little overwhelmed of what to do next with all the fresh ingredients.  It can be challenging to remember everything I have and plan out what I can make with it before it goes bad.  Screenshot of the Fridge Pal appThe Fridge Pal app has been really helpful to me; I can basically create a visual copy of my fridge on my phone so I remember what’s available to use.  “You scan items in using the bar codes. Fresh produce can be entered manually. Look up recipes that combine ingredients so you know how to use items about to go bad.”  In the app, you can also enter an expiration date for each food item.

  • Pro tip: I hate wasting food so I try to organize my refrigerated shelves by keeping in mind what will keep best the longest.  The things that will keep for a while (eggs, cheese, hearty veggies like carrots, etc.) go in the back.  In the front of the shelves, I put things that have a shorter life (avocados, softer fruit like strawberries, fresh deli meat, etc.) so I’ll remember to use those before they go bad.  

Once my fridge is organized, my next step is to prep and start using ingredients.  Hard boiled eggs are a favorite of mine; I can eat them on their own with a little salt, put them in salads, pickle them (yes really!), etc.  Now, I have a confession to share with you: I am terrible at boiling eggs on the stove.  What I do instead is make oven hard boiled eggs using my oven and a muffin tin.  Along with getting more evenly cooked & easier to peel eggs, this method feels safer to me as I don’t have to deal with a big, heavy pot of boiling water once the eggs are cooked.  Here’s my method for baking hard boiled oven eggs (or as I call them ‘Oven Eggs’):

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place 1 whole, un-cracked egg in each muffin well (no muffin papers needed).
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • When 30 minutes are up, use silicone-tipped tongs to carefully take hot eggs out of the tin and gently place them into a medium-size bowl of ice water (I like using these Oxo bowls with the grippy handles and weighted, textured bottoms).
  • Once cooled, you can peel your eggs and put them in your fridge or leave them in their shell (to peel whenever you want to eat one) and place in your fridge (I keep mine in a big plastic sandwich bag so they don’t take up too much room.

3 Oxo mixing bowls

I have some recipes that I like to use in my weekly cooking/baking rotation, but I’m regularly searching for new things to try.  These days, many people have created their own blogs where they share their own recipes.  I’m a repeat user of Pinterest and find that many of the most yummy-sounding/looking recipes on there are from individuals’ food/life blogs; with every amazing cookie recipe, there’s a charming story that goes along with it.  Confession #2: sometimes I just want the recipe.  Am I the only one who feels this way? 😉  Screenshot of a No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse.I’ve found a trick to help with this desire/need: when I scroll thru the blog post to get to the recipe, there’s usually a link to “print version of this recipe”.  When I click this, I get to see just the recipe; I take a screenshot of the print version of the recipe and then I just have it saved as a picture I can access.  Using this trick, you get all of the info you need with less noise and less information to try to sort thru (which can be overwhelming and sometimes a barrier to actually making the dish).  I also find it helpful that I can zoom in on the picture of the recipe if the text is too small in the screenshot. 

Here’s the link to the No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse that’s pictured as a screenshot in this article (spoiler alert: it’s an amazing dessert!).

What tips or tricks do you have for organizing your fridge/pantry and using ingredients?  Share in the comments! (I’d love to know!)

If you missed them, check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this AT in the Kitchen series!