Photo: ThinkstockBy Lynn Andriani
In an ideal world, you'd...pull it out and make margaritas every weekend.
In reality…you can shake your margaritas using a metal shaker and a pint glass, and serve them on the rocks. Or, if you have an ice cream maker, help it pull its weight by enlisting it to make perfectly slushy frozen drinks. A food processor or Cuisinart Mini-Prep can definitely handle smoothies. If you must have a blender, opt for its smaller cousin, the immersion blender (or hand blender), which is much easier to store and clean up, and purees soups beautifully.
In an ideal world, you'd...cook healthier versions of burgers and steaks, thanks to the little tray that catches all that unappetizing-looking grease.
In reality...the grill makes a fine burger, but there's nothing it can do that an outdoor grill or even a frying pan can't. And if it's grill marks you're after, use a grill pan. One drawback to electric grills (in addition to having yet another appliance to store) is that they tend to make food retain moisture, so meat and fish can actually steam instead of grill.
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Baby Food Maker
In an ideal world, you'd...use it to ensure your baby gets the healthiest, least processed version of mashed carrots.
In reality...by the time most of us get the knack of this thing, the baby has moved on to more solid foods. While he is in the pureed foods phase, though, you can cook those carrots in boiling water or a steamer basket, and then use a fork to smash them. Not smooth enough for your tot? Add some of the cooking water and whip them together in a food processor or with an immersion blender until they're to his liking.
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In an ideal world, you'd...boil water for your morning tea, cook a baked potato for lunch and heat up a frozen burrito for dinner.
In reality...you really only use it to warm up your coffee (which unfortunately doesn't taste very good). We know some people are going to keep theirs no matter what, but considering the space they can take up, microwaves' usefulness is debatable. As anyone who's tried it knows, nuking dinner can be hit or miss, since food cooks from the outside in, so it's often overdone on the edges but still cold (or worse, raw) inside. Try traditional: Reheat food on the stove in a nonstick frying pan, and defrost containers of sauce or soup by sitting them in a pot of barely simmering water. Microwave popcorn isn't only bad for you, it's not so hot for the environment either. You're better off making it on the stovetop instead.
In an ideal world you'd...make prosciutto-and-mozzarella panini just like they would at a paninoteca in Milan.
In reality...this one might be more than just nice to have for some people (and Oprah's one of them). But if your kitchen just can't handle one more appliance, you can certainly make panini without a dedicated machine. In Italy, many presses are actually made with two flat pieces of metal, so there aren't even grill marks. To get the same effect, butter both sides of your sandwich, put it in a frying pan and weigh the sandwich down with your largest, heaviest pot (cover the bottom with foil so it doesn't stick to the bread). Put a kettle filled with water in the pot if you need more weight.
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