This Kitchen Gadget Is the Key to Faster Family Dinner

Move over, Instant Pot: Your blender would like its counter space back.

September 12, 2021
Photo by Hyesu Lee

Welcome to Kids & the Kitchen, our new landing pad for parents who love to cook. Head this way for kid-friendly recipes, helpful tips, and heartwarming stories galore—all from real-life parents and their little ones.

Halfway through 2020, that special parental year from hell, I purchased a high-speed blender after a late-night doom-scrolling session. Though I had publicly scoffed at the idea of “status” appliances—“No air fryer or Instant Pot will ever grace my kitchen,” I proclaimed—this pandemic purchase had me eating my words.

Overwhelmed and anxious, unenthused about the idea of cooking every single night, and perpetually strapped for time, I found the blender to be a dinnertime savior. Sure, it sounds obvious: Blenders are fast. But think outside the saucy, soupy box. Think: Dosas. Burgers. Potato pancakes. I’m now a blender evangelist. Here are all the ways this sucker will transform dinner for you and your kids.

Burger Patties

Friday nights are for burgers and movies in my house. My daughter and I are vegetarian, which means we take our veggie burgers very seriously. Into the blender go parboiled, chopped sweet potato and canned chickpeas, or roasted, chopped beets and black beans with egg, panko, and spices, pulsed until they hold together. I shape the patties, then bake them at 425°F for 8 to 10 minutes on one side, and six on the other. I freeze the ones I don’t need, then load the ones I do on to buns with sliced veggies, aioli (also made in the blender!), and cheese. They are supremely satisfying.

Savory Batters

Are you using your blender for enough savory suppers? Dosa, idli, and appam—some of my 9-year-old daughter’s Indian favorites—are on frequent rotation here. It’s a time-saver, and the rice-based batters result in A+ meals. My dosas are thin and crispy enough to rival any restaurant menu offering, and are ideal for little hands to dunk into coconut chutney or sambar. Ditto for pillowy idli and lacy appam.

Don’t forget about potato pancakes. (If Jacques Pépin says it’s OK to use a blender, it is.) I like to combine cooked Russet potatoes or sweet potatoes with salt, pepper and enough flour to pull it together, then add eggs to bind, for the fluffiest potato pancakes. (I sauté them in grapeseed oil over medium heat in a nonstick skillet) Serve with whipped butter and maple syrup for a breakfast-for-dinner situation, or top them with caramelized onions and roasted vegetables for a savory (and gluten-free) feast.

One more family favorite: socca (sort of a pizza’s chill sister). This summer, I incorporated balsamic caramelized onions into the batter and topped the flatbreads with jammy grape tomatoes, asparagus, arugula, and chive blossoms from my herb garden.

Soup In Every Season

High-speed blenders produce a silky texture that really can’t be beat. (I’m looking at you, slightly-less-beloved immersion blender). I lean on my trusty Vitamix when I want to make fast work of woodsy or earthy vegetables such as kale, asparagus and cauliflower. A house favorite? Parsnip soup, served with parsnip oven fries and tamarind chutney.

Condiments Forever

You’re a parent. You’re going to have five bites of sausage, half a salmon fillet, a slab of fried tofu in your fridge, and you are going to need to feed yourself. So make sure you have decent condiments to slather your proteins with, so you can survive while not loathing life. I always have pesto and one or more varieties of chutney in the fridge: Mint-cilantro and tamarind-date are our favorites. All can be spooned over any protein.

And yes, sauces. Gotta have ‘em. My child asks for pasta on the regular. It’s true that a good marinara sauce takes time to develop flavor, but lately we’ve been loving raw summer tomato sauce. It brightens up any bowl of noodles, and can also be used as the base for a speedy pita or naan pizza. (If your child is squicked out about the texture of certain foods, the blender can puree the heck out of carrots or eggplants or whatever typically earns a hairy eyeball.)

When I am really not turning on the stove, I look to my homemade nut butters. I'll set out a grazing platter with crudité, fresh fruit, thick slices of sourdough, jam, pickled vegetables, and peanut butter. Nut butters like cashew and honey-roasted peanut take less than two minutes to blitz together at top speed.

It’s just a gadget with a plug, sure, but my blender eliminated my pandemic cooking burnout, radically changed how I cook, and even gave me more grace with which to parent. 2021 is as weird as 2020, but armed with my blender, I have got this.

Is there a kitchen gadget that has made dinner prep easier for you? Share it with us in the comments!

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Pooja is a New Jersey-based writer and editor.