In the last few weeks, I have made several major kitchen-related purchases. I usually wait to find things used on Craigslist or at the thrift store, but in this case everything was bought new because I had certain items in mind.
First was a KitchenAid mixer, the large-capacity, heavy-duty model. I had one years ago, when our family and kitchen counter space were much smaller. Back then it was easier to just use my bread machine to knead my bread dough, so I sold the mixer on eBay for a profit. Fast-forward a few more years: these days, baking just one loaf of bread would only feed our family at one meal. My bread machine just can't keep up with that kind of output, and I also prefer to bake the loaves in the oven. Which means that with practically the same time and effort, I could be turning out four loaves instead of one if I have the right kind of mixer. I love the KitchenAid because it also has an array of optional attachments, which I hope to be able to purchase over time. Since I bought this mixer last month, I have used it every single day, and can't imagine what I ever did without it. My Dad and I even made two different kinds of homemade Hungarian sausages with the food grinder/sausage maker attachment.
Then a few weeks ago I bought something I have been having my eyes on for 7 years: a grain mill. Back when our oldest son was first born, I started reading and learning about healthy eating, and came across the health benefits of freshly milled flour. However, buying a grain mill at that time was financially impossible. Over the years, I have many times thought about wanting to buy a grain mill, heard from others who had one and loved it, but it was just never really an option. With an ever-growing family and moving across the country twice in order to start a church, there were always more pressing financial needs that had to be taken care of.
Well, I finally have one, and I must say it was well worth the wait and investment. This particular mill comes with a lifetime warranty and is considered top-of-the-line for household use. The day it arrived, I immediately ground up some soft wheat berries into pastry flour, which on the finest setting came out almost the consistency of powdered sugar. That same day, I made sugar cookies and lemon bars from 100% whole wheat pastry flour, and 100% whole-wheat bread from freshly-milled hard wheat, all of which came out wonderfully light and fluffy. The taste was delicious, sweet and fragrant, and absent of the bitter aftertaste often associated with whole grains (which is due to the oils in the kernel going rancid soon after milling, as the flour is not refrigerated).
My goal right now is to bake all our own bread products, including bread, rolls, hamburger/hot dog buns, pita pockets, tortillas, pizza dough, cakes, and pastries from scratch using 100% whole grains. I have been baking bread for many years, so it's not that radical of a change to want to make ALL my own bread products. I am looking for good recipes that use other grains besides wheat, such as rye (which I LOVE), and other methods, such as using sprouted grains or sourdough starters. The mill can also grind dried legumes, and I am thinking about substituting milled beans for some of the flour for a nutritional boost - I just need to find some good recipes.
This week (and my spending spree ends with this) I bought a very nice set of stainless-steel pots and pans. It is really not like me to be spending a whole bunch of money, but considering that I (a) have to cook for a large family and my pots were all getting too small (b) I have never spent more than $5 on a pot/pan before and (c) I have been married over 8 years without making any frivolous kitchen purchases, I felt I could splurge on these nice pots. I love them!!!
In addition to these major purchases, I found a great, Italian-made pasta maker at the thrift store for $2.80. The wonderful kitchen store right by my house (where I have obviously been spending way too much time...) carries different attachments in addition to the ones the machine came with. I really like the ravioli attachment.
While I have always loved cooking and baking, it's even more fun now. So if I don't post for several days at a time, I may just be in the kitchen playing with my new toys! :)