For those who may have an interest, some recommendations for small appliances. I have all of these units, and have had each of them long enough to have a track record on them. At the end of the description in parentheses, I include how long I’ve had it.
Now, none of these is particularly inexpensive, but you only get what you pay for, and sometimes less. With these, at least you’re getting your money’s worth.
Panasonic Genius Inverter Microwave – about $160
The ‘Genius’ in the name refers to the guy who programmed the sensor-cooking in this incredible machine. Put in one little new potato, select Potatoes and push Start. Perfect. Put in three huge Idaho potatoes, select Potatoes and push Start. Perfect. Same with Fresh Vegetables and Frozen Vegetables. Perfect, every time. You can even select More for English style vegetables (mush), normal for American style, and Less for French style (al dente). Specify the weight of a frozen item, like frozen meat, and the Defrost cycle will thaw it perfectly, without cooking any of it. This is the big 2.2 cubic foot, 1250-watt unit I have. There’s an outer frame you can get for it if you want to build it in, which I did. Available in different sizes, finishes, and control layouts, they’re all great. (6 years)
Zojirushi Two-Pound-Loaf Bread Maker – about $270
This makes a real loaf of bread. Not some weird tall cylinder or a cube or anything. An actual, normal-shaped loaf of bread. You put all the ingredients in, push the button, and walk away. It does the mix, knead, rise, second knead, second rise, and bake, by itself. Zojirushi didn’t import products to America for a long time, because they make the high-quality products Japanese demand. They didn’t want to make a cheap export version. At some point they decided their no-compromise products had a market here, and they started exporting these high-quality products to the United States. (8 years)
Zojirushi Countertop Hot Water Dispenser – about $160
Like hot tea or instant coffee, or hate for the water to heat up for pasta? Now you can have 195-degree water on your countertop whenever you want it. It actually has four settings; we leave ours at 195 degrees. All the time. No tea kettle to go unattended. No expensive plumbing install. Just fill it with the spritzer hose on your kitchen sink. One guy I know had the older model, and wanted the new one with multiple temperature settings, so he waited for the old one to die. When it was ten years old, he gave up and gave it to his mom, and bought the new one. That was five years ago, and his mom’s still works fine. Another no-compromise product from Zojirushi. (5 years)
DeLonghi Nespresso Pixie Espresso Machine – about $160
You really want one of these. Oh, yes, you do. A real espresso machine, that brews the espresso on the spot, and is about the size of a large dictionary. The line of coffees available is very nice, with some dark and strong ones in there. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like a fresh-brewed shot of espresso. There are two buttons for cup size, small and large, both of which are easily programmable, so you can set it to match your cups without overflowing all the time. This is just so cool. I have about three shots of espresso a day, so this has gone through 1800+ shots with no problems. (20 months, in which time I’ve written four novels and a memoir. Just sayin’.)
DeLonghi Milk Frother – about $90
Now you got the espresso machine, how you gonna make a latte without a milk frother? The problem is, most of them are complete junk. OK, so this unit is expensive, but it works. So there’s that. It can heat the milk, heat it and froth it, or froth it alone. And it does it quickly without burning the milk, though you do need to make sure you rinse and wipe it out after every use. Perfect companion to the company’s Pixie espresso machine above. (20 months)