The big questions of life

Alright folks. I need your help here. See, I live in an apartment with very little storage space in the kitchen.

Thanks to my parents and a timely trip to Ikea, a butcher’s block and a metal shelf have given us a little more room to stash our kitchen loot.

But as you can see, we’re not exactly swimming in space, especially when food prep is going on. (By the way, that’s One-Skillet Pasta Quattro Formaggi in the works, recipe forthcoming.)

My spice collection alone takes up the entire top section of the grid we built to serve as our ‘pantry.’

In fact, we had to move our microwave, mugs, tea supplies and coffee maker into the dining room because there’s simply no more room in the kitchen.

I’m a firm believer in non-gadgetry. Okay, maybe a semi-firm believer. But I really don’t want to clutter up my kitchen with appliances and kitchen fad gadgets I don’t use. That’s why the lazy Susan had to go. That’s why the George Foreman had to go. I simply didn’t use them.

However, I’ve been dreaming. And this dream includes a beautiful vision of a food processor (Cuisinart or KitchenAid). I’ve been going back and forth in my mind–will I use it enough to make it worth the space? Here are the things I would probably use it for: making Thai curry pastes; making Indian curry pastes; throwing together a pie crust with a few pulses; making wet rubs to slather on meat; making tapenades; making pesto.

Now I have done almost all these things either by hand or with a combination of knives, my mortar and pestle, and my blender. But see, this one machine would do it all! And–I think–save me time.

I really don’t know. I really just don’t know. I really, really, just don’t know (Monty Python, anyone?).

So I’m reaching out to you. I know I count many amazing (and some professional) cooks among my readers and friends, so please tell me: do you own a food processor? How often do you use it? Do I need one?

I really can’t make up my mind.


Helplessly Indecisive in the Kitchen (Chicago, IL)

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33 Responses to The big questions of life

  1. Corinne says:

    We have a tiny one that we got as a wedding gift. Honestly, if you make the space for a big {nice!} one and make an effort to use it, you will probably use it all the time and for so many things you would never imagined using it for! :)

  2. I have both a small (4-cup) one and a large one. I got the large one as a wedding gift and got the tiny one last year. For me, the large one gets used maybe every 2 weeks or so but that little one gets used almost EVERY day.

    4 cups is plenty for most of my uses, and sometimes, if I’m feeling too lazy to get the big boy out of storage, I just work in batches.

    So I say YES! And the good news is that the 4-cup one doesn’t take a lot of space!

    • Jenna says:

      You’re right–I was thinking if I got one it would be a mammoth one (12 cups =) but you’re right–a small one is easier to store, and I can work in batches if necessary. Thanks! I’m taking your advice to heart.

  3. I say yes. There are so many things you can use it for. :-) Also, it looks like you have space to hang a shelf directly under your cabinets on the left, which you could use for spices, mugs, cans and other smaller jars/packages. And maybe you could get one of those shoe shelves (kind of like this and put that on top of your fridge for even more space. Then you would have room for the new food processor!

  4. D Kearns says:

    We have a large Kitchen Aid food processor and I think it is a waste of space. Along with the box of attachments, it takes up a lot of cupboard space. Unless you are cooking for a lot of people, I find it faster to use a knife and a mandolin. The time and effort necessary to clean this thing isn’t worth it. Just my $.02

  5. Rowenna says:

    I don’t have one–though if I was going to make an addition to my kitchen arsenal, it’s on the short list. It doesn’t do anything a knife or mallet or something else I have on hand doesn’t do…but I confess after making a large batch of pesto and spending what felt like five hours chop-chop-chopping the basil, I was covetting something with more horsepower than my poor hands. I’d get a small one so it doesn’t take up much space, and just do multiple rounds with it if I made something in a large batch. But that’s just me :)

  6. Jen says:

    You know what else is nice about a food processor? It will also slice or grate things for you! Need 3 cups of slice carrots? Bam! Need 15 cups of grated potatoes for has browns? Bam!
    But I must admit that I only pull out my food processor occasionally. I forget that I have it half the time. But for the other half it’s rather nice to have because it’s amazing the variety of tasks it can accomplish.

  7. foongfest says:

    I know a lot of people find it a kitchen essential but I make such small portions that I find it a pain to pull it out, assemble and then clean.

    It seems like quite a bit of what you mentioned (sans pie crust) can be done in a coffee grinder. Plus you can grind whole spices and make nut flour (for gluten free applications.) That’s a little smaller than a food processor. (Not the same one you grind your coffee in mind you, if not everything you cook will end up tasting like coffee!)

    Here’s a little article about food processors that I found very useful:

  8. erin says:

    We have an 11 cup Kitchen Aid with an optional small workbowl and blade, and I use it several times a week! It might just be because we have several family favorites that are so much easier to make with it – pesto, hummus, oatmeal pancakes, etc. Definitely a necessity for that weekly hummus. :) It’s great too for pie crusts, freezer jams after strawberry picking, etc., but those are more seasonal uses.

  9. giselle says:

    I have one, but use it maybe once a month. I don’t cook as much as I want to though b/c my job requires too many hours. =(

    My kitchen is almost as tiny as yours!! We have done without a microwave for 2 1/2 years. Most of the time it’s fine. Some days though, man, it would be really nice to have one.

    I would go with what someone said and get a little one that will do most jobs. If in a pinch, you could do batches. But most of the time, you’ll be fine with a small one that you can squeeze somewhere.

    Now you tell me – do you have an immersion blender? Do you recommend one? I’ve wanted one forever..

    • Jenna says:

      Yeah, I’m liking the idea of a smaller one for sure. And YES, I absolutely recommend an immersion blender!! I use it regularly for pureeing soups, even Indian curries and such. It doesn’t take up a lot of room, and it’s an awesome little gadget.

  10. Twinky says:

    You may well remember that I never had a food processer, but used to use the Kitchenaid every day, not just for mixing, but for grinding (meat, cranberries), grating (cheese, carrots) and occasional slicing (the blades on the Ka slicing drums are not sharp so the mandolin that Carlos Grasa gave us was my principal slicer–and if you were to buy a mandolin, the V-shaped blade is absolutely the best/safest ease-of-cutting blade…NOT the straight one like we gave Erica for Christmas some years ago).

    The other major electrical was the good old blender, which I still use, as well as the immersion blender. So, as far as a food processer goes, I think everyone is right to say get a small one… if it becomes a staple in your food-prep diet, you can always get a larger one later. Otherwise, elbow grease combined with knives and “manual” instuments is the best way to go rather than cluttering with stuff-stuff-&-more-stuff.

    “If you don’t use it, lose it!” …and you can quote that back to me!! =)

  11. Jacquie Erwin says:

    If you decide you wish to try out a normal sized processor, I have one you can have. It was great for kneading bread dough as well as all the other tasks mentioned here. Ask your mother to stop by and pick it up if you are interested!

  12. I actually think that food processors are more useful than blenders. Blenders are awesome for smoothies or milkshakes, which Andrew makes a lot. But you could technically do those same things in the food processor, it just might be a little harder to pour into your glass. I use my food processor to chop nuts, make pie crust, chimichurri sauce, homemade peanut butter, curry sauces, quickly chop veggies to put in my chicken broth, etc. Pureeing things is still probably the most common use, which you can also do with the blender, but the blender needs the help of some water first for most things. The food processor doesn’t need that, so you can puree something without watering it down. I also do things like puree fresh ginger until it’s completely juicified and then freeze it in ice cube trays, 1 Tbl each. That way I can still use the real ginger, but it doesn’t go bad sitting in my fridge, and then I also don’t have to get the grater out every time. I don’t use my food processor at all for grating and slicing, I tried and it just made a horrible mess. But then again I have a really old one from the 70s that I got from Andrew’s grandmother, so maybe the new models work better. Mine is also one of the huge ones, and that makes it easier for things like pie crust and pureeing 6 cups of butternut squash, but for most things I think the smaller one would be fine, and you could just work in batches.
    I also use a coffee grinder for completely pulverizing things that the food processor just can’t get fine enough, like grinding cinnamon sticks into cinnamon powder, grinding flax seeds, or making my own spice mixes.

    • Jenna says:

      I think I’ve heard about your ginger-freezing tecnique, and it’s fabulous. My aunt (as you can see in the comments) has offered me her processor, so it looks like I’m going for it–for free! (the best way) =)

  13. skippymom says:

    I have a Cuisinart blender/food processor mix. They are separate attachments and I LOVE them both.

    Besides what you would use it for – I also love it for chopping veggies for soups and stews and making tomato sauces, apple sauce and pureed soups [better then the blender imo].

    Family of four that rarely eats out – I would say we use it, on average, once a week. The blender attachment we use darn near everyday for smoothies and shakes.

    PS – I got this free at my local grocery store when they had a give away where for every 10 dollars you spent you got a sticker. 100 stickers later and I had it. :D [Yes, it took me 6 weeks! but it is mine now. heehee]

  14. Angie says:

    Thanks for your comment! I love your blog. Very practical and light-hearted. :)

    Your kitchen is so tiny! Mine is pretty small, and my husband and I are starting to have a lot of trouble finding places to store all of our kitchenware and ingredients. We are in the middle of a huge purging season right now too, so that’s helping a bit. Investing in shelves is a good idea for extra storage space. We’ve also considered making a space to hang our pots and pans to clear out the over-crowded cabinet.

    As for a food processor, I have a tiny one that doesn’t work too well, but I use it all the time. You should definitely go for it!

  15. kristin says:

    I have a small KitchenAid food processor and I use it so randomly it doesn’t make it entirely worth it. Since it’s smaller, I’ve had to do multiple batches of one recipe and honestly, it’s quite a pain (especially since you have barely any counterspace, I can just imagine how annoying transfering out of the processor to a bowl and back again would be). From what you’ve said you’d be using it for, I would suggest using your immersion blender instead. It can handle making pastes, tapenades, and pestos and I’ve used mine to do quick breadcrumbs and even meat mixtures instead of dragging out my processor (sometimes, I’m just too lazy to bring it out, set it up, and clean it after). It won’t handle pie crusts or doughs but use a fork or two knives or your hands and you’re golden. I just think that with the terrible lack of space you have, less is more and anything that does double or triple duty is worth keeping around.

  16. Soma says:

    Dear Jenna. I would like to thank you for taking time and visiting me and leaving me a comment (from Indian Simmer)… Hugs.. really sweet of you.

    I do not own a big food processor.. just a tiny one. I cook a lot and I have 2 kids. So far it has been ok, tho’ i wished sometimes I had a nice big fancy one. I have enough storage space, but it is just if I need to indulge or not:-) In terms of function, I do not need a big one unless i am throwing a big party. Only thing is I have a work a little harder doing things in batches. and right now, that little processor is broken too.. go figure . I am left with a immersion blender and a regular blender.

  17. I love my food processor! I use it almost everyday. You can use it to shred cheese, make bread, pizza crust, slice veggies really thin, make sauces like Guacamole, Pesto, etc. I highly reccommend it! :)

  18. rsmacaalay says:

    Get and small one, it will be easy to store. I have one but i barely use it and it does not bother the space of my kitchen either as it is small, I just use it when i remember to but yes its really handy if you are in a hurry

  19. Kelsey says:

    Sounds like you have the best one coming your way – free! I have the smallest one, it’s perfect for hummus and pesto. I use it at least once a week. The newest gadget I’m after is a Vitamix, too bad they are so expensive!

  20. Jeannie says:

    Yes a food processor is a great help in the kitchen but I leave it on the tabletop for easy access because if I were to keep it in the cabinet, I’ll be too lazy to take it out to use!

  21. Kimby says:

    Too funny! At first, I thought you were leading up to: “How can I rearrange my kitchen to maximize space/use?” Looking at your photos while reading along, I was visualizing your spices on the stainless steel shelf (within easy reach), and maybe a second shelf installed above the fridge for “seldeom used items,” and moving your cannister to the top shelf of your pantry, and… (If you ever need a cheap interior designer, let me know. :) Sorry to get ahead of your train of thought!

    ANYWAY, my in-laws gave me their teeny, tiny Sunbeam “Oskar,” which I swore I’d NEVER use, but it comes in handy for making bread crumbs, rough-chopping veggies, etc. — whatever saves TIME! I used to be a do-it-yourself-purist, but life’s too short. Go for the gusto!!! (I see a full-size Cuisanart in your future… :)

    Your blog today proves that you don’t have to have an industrial size kitchen to make GREAT food — can hardly wait for your Quattro Formaggi recipe!

    • Jenna says:

      Kimby, great ideas for rearranging things. =) I may just have to hire you as my interior designer, heh heh . . . though since we’re in this apartment short term (max for another year and a half) maybe I’ll wait to invest in a more permanent location. =)

  22. alongtheohio says:

    I am no help at all with your food processor inquiry…but I like the tea/coffee cart in the living room!

  23. Veronica says:

    I couldn’t do without mine. I did for a long time, but I couldn’t now that I know life with one. Don’t forget you can make hummus, salsa, and your own nut butters in it! And fudge babies! ( You can even whip cream in it and make homemade mayonnaise in one minute ( So I would highly suggest one. Whenever PW or another blogger asks what my most valued kitchen appliance is in order to win a Kitchenaid or a set of knives, I always say my food processor!!

  24. Sarah says:

    food processor are amazing!! go for it :)

  25. Reshmi says:

    Hello Dear – Thanks for dropping by my Blog :) I enjoyed your recipes and had a great time browsing through… I do own a Food Processor and is a necessity for my Indian Cooking, so helps me a go ahead and get one :D


  26. Ok, I am only going to address the space issue as you already have plenty of appliance advice (and a freebie on the way). The apartment we are moving out of in a month (YaY!) Has the same amount of space as what I see in your pix. I hung a coat rack (wooden board w/ 4 hooks) high on an open wall and use it to hang pot holders and colanders/strainers out of my way. I also chose to use my dining room closet as a pantry. We got simple plastic stand-alone shelving and store large appliances and dry goods in there. I close the door and have clutter-free space in my tiny kitchen. When guests come over, the coats go on our bed:) I share this as an ‘out of the box’ approach to your next year or so. Happy cooking;)

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