In case you are worried that someone left their shoes on the table, rest assured this is an in-store display at Bergdorf’s. They always have the most colorful holiday displays, and its part of my holiday ritual to “window shop” inside the store. On Fifth Avenue, more is more and bigger is better. Not likely what you had in mind when shopping for your favorite gift, certainly not for the food lover, cook, chef wannabe, or hungry person in your life. Voilà! Foodie Gift Guide to the rescue!
Last year, I started this guide on the perfect gifts for cooks, and included tips on how to buy them and what you should consider as you look for a special gift for the food lover in your life (or your own self). Be sure to check back to that post for more ideas. (Scroll to the bottom of this post for more information on my shop and affiliate relationship with vendors represented in the shop.)
Without further ado, let’s get shopping! Time now for the Foodie Gift Guide of 2019!
Gifts for Entertaining with a Sense of Whimsy
My Aunt Kay made the most fantastic gingerbread men for us every Christmas. Perfectly thin and crisp with snip-of-raisin eyes and red hot buttons. And, I have made many a gingerbread house with nieces and nephews and neighborhood kids. Pro tip: lick the roof if you don’t want anyone trying to get a piece of yours. Any child would treasure this little Gman apron for rolling up his sleeves and getting busy in the kitchen. It’s just one of many darling designs for cooks of all ages by Jesse Steele. Remember the Eiffel Towerprint last year?
Don’t go bacon my heart? These towels just make me giggle. Way too funny. They are exclusively (not really) only for cooks with attitude. What about a combo of a Bacon-My-Heart Towel with last year’s Bacon for the Takin’ Tongs. I have a few peeps that would be happy with that! Probably won’t find two of these under the tree.
Love all things Mud Pie, and there are many from that gift line in my shop from which to choose. They add such whimsy to the table. This 80-ounce (2 1/2 quarts) Pineapple Pitcher is great for entertaining. Ceramic, with rind detail and a pineapple crown.
Chef Bryce Murphree and his wife Maggie met in Aspen at the famed Little Nell hotel. After years in hospitality, they started tinkering in candles to improve the quality – better scents, cleaner burns, more eco friendly. And after learning to make their own essential oils, they found they were firmly rooted in culinary scents. All fragrances were food-based. Go figure! Gluttony Candles was born. I first visited them when this was just a home kitchen and spare room operation. (I bought six immediately!) The candles are packaged in 14-ounce food cans topped with colorful theme-related melted “crayon”. Not only are they adorable, but they smell amazing. So many flavors, many for the holidays. You will have to check them out for yourself. I also love “camp fire”. Note: Gluttony Candles are only available directly from their site or in local Dallas boutiques.
Finally, how about these clever canisters – 1, 2, 3 – with glass door knob handles? Footed Ceramic Canisters range in height from 7 1/2″ to 10″. Mud Pie, of course.
Gifts to Stuff a Stocking
This may seem like the least sexy present ever, but I kid you not, NOBODY has an ice scoop in their ice maker, and EVERYBODY needs one. Why do we think it’s okay to run our dirty little hands through someone else’s ice bin. Even the folks with ice dispensers on their fridge doors, need to pull the whole bin out to fill a ice bucket or wine chiller from time to time, and hands are not the perfect helper. Got this idea from my sister and still love it!! OXO for the win.
Back by popular demand! This was the 2018 stocking stuffer best hit. I got lots of rave reviews and dozens were stuffed in stockings. This peeler (by Microplane) changed my life. It’s just as sharp and wonderful as the Microplane grater (also in my shop) is for zesting, but this time for peeling, with hands safely out of the way. Everyone needs one. Now.
And while we are talking about spreaders, which can only bring to mind cheese!!!, I also discovered The Cheese Grotto this year. Jessica Sennett has all you need to care for, preserve and serve your cheeses perfectly. Here’s another set of spreaders that I love for their unique shape.
Essential Tools of the Trade
Here are just a few items that every good cook needs on hand. These Souper Cubes Freezing Trays are a wonderful way to manage stocks, bone broth, and soup freezer storage. The trays come in several sizes, holding up to 2 cups per well, with each well having four fill lines for portion control. They have tight fitting lids that maintain freshness and make them stackable. Made from food-grade silicone, the trays are BPA free and dishwasher safe.
This handsome ladle could appear in almost every section of the foodie gift guide. I put it here because its essential. Another beautiful piece from Earlywood Designs, this is the sturdiest, most functional and design-winning ladle. It will last a lifetime. The Classic Ladle holds 3/4 cup level-fill, but nearly double if scooping up a heapin’ helpin’. Made in the USA (by the cutest woodworker ever) from sustainable hardwoods.
Here are two books that are must-haves. Beast Bowl Nutrition, written by my friend Laura Reigel, lays out all the rules and tools for building unlimited protein-rich bowls. Tips, components, combinations, and dressings are all clearly and colorfully laid out in an easy-to-follow format, making meal assembly a snap.
Abra Berens‘ book Ruffage is a real treasure. With an alphabetical listing of veggies A to Z, this book, based on her life on a Michigan farm, goes from confit to caramelized and everything in between. Simple techniques, combined with new creative combinations (smoked whitefish dressing!), are represented in the 100 recipes, each with 3 variations. You can’t just drool over the stunning photography, you must get up and get cooking!
Flavors that Pack a Punch
White Truffle Hot Sauce? This lovely gift appeared this summer and I was skeptical for about 3 seconds, but immediately won over. It’s a good condiment to level up all your dishes. TRUFF is infused with white truffle and white truffle oil, with a pinch of organic coriander. Using the same chilis and agave as the black truffle version of the product, this hot sauce has game.
James Beard nominated chef Meherwan Irani created Spicewalla to bring small batch, roasted and ground, then hand-packed, spices to market. Are your spices above the stove getting hot daily? Near a window getting oxidized from the sun? More than a year old? Time for a spice intervention. Spicewalla Kitchen Essential Spices include must-have single varietals and some signature blends. If you haven’t tasted a quality turmeric, prepare to have your world rocked.
For the do-it-yourselfers on your list, what about a DIY Hot Sauce Making Kit? Handcrafted in Portland, this kit has all you need to get started on your own special sauce. 6 glass bottles, 6 recipes and all the chilis, sugars, and vinegars that you will need. What a unique gift for the hot sauce enthusiast.
Classic Keepers – The Last One You will Ever Buy
Well that might be a slight exaggeration because these brands will no doubt introduce a pan, appliance, knife that is unlike others and you HAVE to add that to your collection. But, what I mean is that they will last forever, and you won’t need to replace THAT piece. To the non-cook, they might seem an absurd amount. (I remember when my otherwise generous Dad couldn’t justify Martha Stewart’s $40 Entertaining book, at double the price of other books). But great pieces ARE an investment, and like little else these days, they will last a lifetime if you take care of them. When you look at my preferred brands, you will see the same names over and over again. I have no sponsored relationship with these companies, but I really trust them to be the best. OXO for gadgets and tools; KitchenAid for countertop appliances; Staub, Lodge, Calphalon, Mauviel, and Le Creuset for pots and pans; Emile Henry for ceramics; and Henckels, Sabatier, and Wustof for cutlery. I’m sharing just a select few of my favorites here.
I STILL love all things Staub. This is a 12-inch fry pan. It comes in a rainbow of luscious colors, but I’m partial to cherry red. This pan has a unique interior matte surface that aids in browning. It has the heft of cast iron, but needs no special seasoning before using. It’s oven safe to 900°F, and its smooth enamel bottom makes it ideal for any cook surface, including induction, glass, and halogen.
Emile Henry is my go-to for all things ceramic. This “flame-ceramic” tagine cooker is made to withstand mechanical shocks, temperature changes (freezer to oven is approved!), and color fading. With no metal, the cooker is non-reactive for all foods, and the high glaze makes it easy to cook with less fats. Tagines derive from the Moroccan dish of the same name, and represent a style of cooking with a conical lid that locks in steam and allows basting in the food’s own juices. I tried to bring a traditional clay Moroccan tagine back from Fez in my youth, and let’s just say it was not resistant to mechanical shocks (read: TWA baggage handlers).
I’m probably half in love with this board from Brooklyn Butcher Blocks because the name is Brick and Mortar Board. Mortar board? Get it??? But the other half is pure design envy. Gorgeous! This is an iconic collectible, hand-made in Brooklyn. Walnut forms the bricks and reclaimed mahogany the “mortar”, designed to pay homage to the aesthetics of Brooklyn’s plentiful brick buildings. This board measures approximately 12 x 18 x 2, but there are a variety of shapes and designs available on Amazon. And, pieces can be customized.
Gifts for the Lover of Wine and Cheese? Yes, Please!
Is there anyone on this list who doesn’t devour the whole brie in one sitting? Kolby, you can skip to the next section. Ever end up with tidbits of cheese you can’t find till entirely too late at the way-back of the fridge? The Cheese Grotto is for you. It’s the perfect way to store cheeses, letting them breathe while retaining moisture. Jessica Sennett has designed this line with four sizes, varying by available fridge space. This handsome model (Fresco) is for the metropolitan among you, a mid-size version. It holds 3 to 4 pounds of cheese, and features a clay brick for humidity control and a vaulted ceiling for condensation control. The shelves are removable to use as serving pieces. It’s a stunning collection with copper, leather, birch and bamboo. Nothing like it on the market and bonus – Made in the USA!!
Repeat offender from the 2018 list – the Gabriel-Glas wine glass. This is the only wine glass you will ever need. This Austrian-made lead-free crystal is both delicate and elegant while also being sturdy and dishwasher safe. It’s a real game-changer! No longer do you need a different shape for different wines. The broader base of the glass’ lower bowl is a “bouquet-driver,” while the slightly conical design concentrates the aromas, making it ideal for both red and white.
This dishwasher safe New York State slate round makes a Stunning Cheese Server. Available with one bamboo spreader, which I have shown as a set of four above. What a lovely hostess gift or wedding present, or dare I say it, a gift for yourself. You were good this year, right? The 11-inch round has been treated with food-safe mineral oil and comes with a piece of soapstone for noting the cheese names. Another wonderful find from The Cheese Grotto.
Foodie Gift Guide to Pay it Forward
And no Foodie Gift Guide would be complete without a nod to being big-hearted! Do you have people on your list that don’t want a thing? Or they’d rather pay it forward and help others. Here are a couple options that fall into two groups: some charitable ideas that have to do with hunger, nutrition, and sustainable solutions, as well as some home-made culinary treats that show you are cooking with love. What about both? A gift to charity, with a little something yummy on the side?
Kicking it off with a few home-made culinary treats. Ingredients and spice jars are both linked through my shop.
Here’s a zesty steak rub that happens to be delicious on a ginormous Tomahawk steak. And don’t forget the tasty combo of citrus salt and pepper in da house. Giving something that is home-made is always appreciated, and you will likely get bonus points for giving a gift that doesn’t need to be dusted.
These seeded cheese crisps are just as easy as they are delicious. Just mix together two grated cheeses, 5 seeds and some salt and bake for 7 – 8 minutes.
And this is a just published recipe for homemade Kahlúa. Mix four ingredients, store it in a cool dark place, and you are all set. More tips on how to use it and full recipe details are available in the post.
What about taking some spiced nuts to your next party? Here are Warm Thai Peanuts, for which I won an award in a professional chef’s recipe contest. Take them warm to the party or let them cool and box them up in cute holiday tins as a culinary treat!
I’m a big fan of giving to charities in lieu of gifts. I’m on the Executive Committee of the Board of Church World Service, a global relief agency with a 73-year track record committed to making sure there is #Enough4All They are focused on sustainable solutions for hunger, poverty, climate change, and those displaced.
Browse the Best Gift Guide and see how far your dollars go. $15 rehabilitates a malnourished child in Indonesia, and just $22 buys 500 fishlings in Honduras. This year CWS is featured in Giving Machines placed around the world. I’m not Matt Damon and I didn’t buy a zoo, but I did buy a pig near Lincoln Center. Like a vending machine, but doling out so much more than Cheetos, gifts purchased here serve the greater good. See if there is a machine near you. What a great way to show the little people in your life that we think about others and help where we can?
This summer I joined 40,000 people worldwide living for one week on the rations of a Syrian refugee displaced to a Jordan camp. It was not easy, and it was definitely humbling, but it was just one week. What about those that spend the average 23 years that refugees spend in camp? Learn more, and provide food and medical care for refugees in Jordan by supporting the Ration Challenge.
Well, that’s a wrap on yet another shopping season. As always, please comment below and let me know as you check the boxes on your shopping list. And, of course, let me know if you find something in the best gift catalog! May your shopping be stress-free and your holiday joy-filled! Wishing you all the best for this season!!
This post contains affiliate links. For more of my must-have faves, visit my shop. I am continuously updating the shop on my website with my newest favorite items (over 130 items to date). The items above are just a few of the many items I recommend in my shop. They are all items I own and use regularly and ♥ L.U.V. love. Purchases made with these links earn an-oh-so-small advertising fee, so…thank you in advance! I regularly get questions from readers needing help making a purchase decision. Feel free to leave a question in the comment section, and I will answer and update the shop with the new item, letting other readers benefit from our joint research.
The Amazon links in the shop take you directly to your Amazon account, ready to Prime ship, if that’s how you and your browser do Amazon. Please, note: I try to pick the least expensive offering that is Prime-eligible, but Amazon offerings are ever changing. So, remember that my recommendation is for the product and brand, and shop around as you always do. I always read reviews, but I trust my own expertise over random and possibly having-a-bad-day comments. Who you gonna believe – Foshizzle2817 or me?
Sure, sure, sure. You could run to the liquor store and pick up a bottle of Kahlúa and nobody will kick you out of the party. It’s plenty respectable as the number one coffee liqueur in the world with a provenance dating back to 1936 Veracruz, Mexico. (As the story goes, four guys pooled resources and talents and whipped up the first batch using Arabica beans, rum, local sugar and vanilla. Four years later, Kahlúa had hit the US shores). But think of the approving nods and admiration you will get if you roll in with a handcrafted hostess gift of homemade Kahlúa and a knowing “I made this” glow about you. Mic drop. The crowd murmurs.
To tell you the truth, I had never considered making this until one of you, dear readers, asked me about it recently. I was casting about for a homemade culinary treat like the ones I have shared over the years (and oh so conveniently linked below) and it hit me as pure genius. I have done spices, candies, crackers, but never a liqueur. I had to do a bit of research and only then realized it is quite brilliant, because unlike the commercially bottled stuff, you can use high quality ingredients and tweak it to your own desired sweetness and ingredient selection.
What’s in Kahlúa?
For SURE, traditional Kahlúa is made with rum – white or dark would work. It’s Mexican, for crying out loud. But there is already so much sugar in the recipe – I have seen recipes that double the amount of sugar I use – that I feel using a more neutral spirit, like vodka, provides a more rounded taste. But since you are cheffing it today, consider a small batch Bourbon, vanilla rum, or even a spiced spirit. I am a longtime believer that Garbage In/Garbage Out rules the kitchen, so choose a quality ingredient.
All coffee beans are either Arabica or Robusta. Most quality cafes and coffee brands use Arabica for its sweeter, more mellow taste, with undertones of fruit and berries. There is a bright acidity to the finish. Robusta is more likely to be found in mass marketed and instant coffees, and it is more harsh, with raw grain and peanut notes and low acidity. Can you guess which one I insist upon?? A lot of Kahlúa recipes will call for instant coffee. My guess is that is how you can easily control the brew strength – more crystals, less water. But you will get a more sophisticated and smoother blend if you make coffee or espresso the old fashioned way, using Arabica beans with a heavier hand. I used Lavazza espresso beans and added 50% more than standard coffee strength. The reader that started this all had flown in Kona from Hawaii. Ooh la la!
Ingredient three (of four) in homemade Kahlúa is sugar. You can find recipes that call for white, brown, molasses, even Stevia or monkfruit. I’m a bit of a purest with avoiding sugar substitutes. The sugar not only adds sweetness – no surprise – but it has a critical role in the final viscosity. This recipe will get slightly thicker as it sits for a couple weeks, but it will not be syrupy like commercial brands. To my taste, that yields a better bar component that can be used in myriad ways. If you like that syrupy, cloying sweetness, by all means add more sugar, up to double. I chose an organic dark brown sugar for its molasses flavor notes.
Lastly, the vanilla bean. They have gotten quiet pricey, so sub with a splash of real vanilla extract if you must. If you make this all in one big jug for the two weeks of curing, you might want to strain out the bean, if using, before bottling. But if you are going straight to the gift bottle as you make it, scrape all the seeds into the batch and cut the beans into enough pieces to put one piece in each bottle.
I have recently become a sucker for Health-Ade Kombucha which conveniently comes in cute 16-ounce brown glass bottles with resealable lids (with a nice little anchor on top), as well as a 64-ounce jug. I had enough bottles to cure in the big jug and then transfer out into small bottles after curing for two weeks. If you have to buy them, there are plenty of options on Amazon. (affiliate link)
Due to travel, I left this bottling in the capable hands of a beverage tasting professional. The report back yesterday after two weeks of swirling and agitating (inverting to move any sugar settling) was “smooth, great coffee undertones, balanced” followed by “having another taste…….I like it.” 🙂
Kahlúa Flavor Harmony
For anyone who is a coffee lover, the number of options for marrying coffee with other flavors is no surprise. Just think of the constant rollout at Starbucks and see how they have paired it. I list several here just to spur your creativity. Consider these inspo for cocktails, drizzles over ice cream, or savory dishes where you might want to add in a hit of Kahlúa.
What Can I Do with Homemade Kahlúa?
Ohhhhhhhh, so you saved some for yourself, now did ya? I got you covered!! There are so many ways to use Kahlúa beyond cocktails, though that is oddly all I see on the official Kahlúa site. Over the years, I have worked with dozens of spirit brands, and it’s always a struggle to get them away from cocktail recipes. It’s such a narrow perspective! One of my clients – Carolans Irish Creme – thought outside the box. I developed all kinds of recipes for them, from brunch to BBQ to breads to sides. So with that spirit 🙂 in mind, here are a few cocktails and a number of other ways where Kahlúa and you might journey. Let me know what you try! Take the road less traveled, made so much tastier with homemade Kahlúa!
I know that spirits are not for all my readers and so I have listed below some of the other culinary gift treats you can find on my website. Here are a few quick and easy things you can make to delight your friends and family:
Prepare the bottles by running them through the dishwasher and having them hot when ready to fill.
Prepare strong coffee and pour into a large mixing bowl or stockpot. While still hot, add the brown sugar. Stir until dissolved.
Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the coffee/sugar mixture, cutting the remaining bean into four equal pieces. Distribute the pieces of bean between the bottles.
Add the vodka to the coffee/sugar mixture and stir.
Using a funnel, divide the Kahlúa among the four bottles (you may have a little extra – for the chef, of course). Let the bottles cool to room temperature, then tightly seal with the caps.
Store in a cool, dark place for two weeks (four is even better), and once a week agitate, turning them upside down and right side up to move any settled sugar around.
If you find yourself short on time to have this made and stashed for 2+ weeks, how about attaching a cute little note saying “don’t drink til New Year’s Eve”? Nobody is going to judge if you give a gift with a little more resting time required. Let’s make this no stress, ok?
Traditionally Kahlúa is made exclusively with Arabica bean coffee. I made mine just short of espresso strength using a high-quality blend from Lavazza.
Choose a good quality spirit to mix with. As the kitchen saying goes, Garbage In/Garbage Out. Only here it’s Garbage Out with a whole lotta sugar, should you reach for rot gut.
I used Wholesome brand dark brown organic sugar which added a rich molasses flavor. As you can see in the photo above, its texture is more coarse than refined. Feel free to adjust sugar quantity to your taste. This yields a slightly less syrupy product than if commercially produced. But if you don’t mind a Kahlúa thinner still and you want to feature the coffee flavor, then you can cut the sugar back further, up to half of what I call for, using only 3/4 pound brown sugar.
Summer is most certainly winding down and there is a little nip in the air. But fear not! The farmers’ market is still humming. And while you might see an apple or pear starting to make an appearance, corn, tomatoes and stone fruit are still holding court. I have been jonesing for a menu that highlights all that and more, where more equals a big honking tomahawk steak, rubbed to an inch of its life with a killer zesty spice rub. Do you feel me?
I guess you could call this a Pot Lucky because I had help. Lots and lots of help. But it was a pint-sized party compared to others in the past. It was dinner-party sized, to be exact. It was also a Pot Lucky in its most basic form because the menu was curated around a theme. The theme: Farmers’ Market Summer Harvest Bounty! I love the creativity that my guests bring to the table. A quick stroll through a farmers’ market or two and they all raised the bar on imaginative recipes and colorful culinary creations. I have to say – and they all agreed – it was a top ten (five?) meal of my life. Every damn delicious morsel. If I could, I’d eat it all over again. Right! Now!!
What’s a Tomahawk Steak?
I thought you’d never ask. Before I drill down on the deliciousness that was this menu, I wanted to throw a little 411 on you about the famous TomahawkSteak. Also sometimes known as a Cowboy Steak, a Tomahawk is a bone-in ribeye. And by bone-in, I mean all the way in. The steak is usually cut with 5 – 15” inches of rib bone hanging off the chop. The longer the bone, the more tomahawk-looking and all the more dramatic its presentation. It’s a bit fashionable at the moment because of its oh-so-eye-popping presentation. A Tomahawk also varies from a boned ribeye in thickness and weight. Because each rib gets its own serious slab of meat (a boned ribeye can be cut to any thickness), they tend to be about 2” thick and weigh upwards of three pounds, depending on the butcher and size of the cow. This section of the cow is also where T-bones and Porterhouses come from.
Once cut, a butcher will clean the bone by scraping off meat, fat and sinew, a technique called “Frenching”. Think of a rack of lamb with those pristine gleaming racks (bones). You’ve likely heard that cooking meat on the bone adds flavor, but since most of the bone extends beyond the meat it won’t likely add much. True, bones are full of collagen and vitamins, and that is why they are turned into stock and cooked down for demi-glace. But to get at any residual marrow, you need a wet cooking technique like braising, not a high temp grilling technique that chars the bone.
And in case you are wondering, Tomahawks are not limited to beef. Any large rib-cage animal can produce a Tomahawk. In a fancy steakhouse – or at your local butcher – you might find bison, pork or even venison Tomahawks. For the summer harvest dinner, I went with beef.
How to Cook a Tomahawk Steak
I think the ultimate in Tomahawk Steak preparation is a rip-snorting fire. I mean if we are going to eat like a caveman, let’s cook like one, too. It’s pretty foolproof, but if you are at all unclear about doneness, invest in an instant read thermometer, like the one in my shop. Make sure the meat is at room temperature and pat it dry. I have included a spice rub below, but feel free to use any spice rub that you love. If it contains salt, as does mine, rub it on just before grilling. The salt will pull the moisture out if you let it sit too long. Apply the spice rub generously to both sides of the meat and rub it in to minimize fallout (falloff?). It’s called rub for a reason!
There are two schools of thought on high-temp cooking for lean cuts of meat: sear and move to the cooler side or cook on the cooler side, then move to the hot side, ending with a sear, known as a reverse-sear. I have done it both ways and it’s a matter of personal preference, though the reverse-sear will look less charred. Either way, your gas or charcoal grill will need a hot side, as well as a cooler side where you will cook with the lid closed, using the convection created by the grill’s lid. If you opt for the reverse-sear, cook until your meat is about 20 degrees below your desired temperature (goal of 130oF for medium rare), turning periodically. When the meat reaches 110oF, move it to the hot side where you can get your perfect grill marks, or at least a nice, dark, caramel-colored finish. This reverse-sear technique has the added benefit of giving you some crust but without a full-on carcinogenic char. ?
The most important thing EVER for meat is to let it rest before carving – for a big slamming hunk like this, at least 10, more like 15, minutes. This allows the juices to retract back into the muscle, resulting in pink juicy meat. I want to cry every time I see someone pull a $100 tenderloin from the oven and cut immediately as the juices run rampant, leaving a grey blob back on the board. Just say no! And don’t forget to cut across the grain as you would with any piece of meat.
What’s in that spice rub?
I love to play around with spices in the pantry to come up with some unique combos that are easy to grab when headed to the grill. I do have a robust collection of components from which to mix, but truthfully you could make the spice rub below without all the bits and pieces. There are two salts – one would do. There are two peppers – ditto. I like a bit of sugar (remember the sugar steak?) to help with creating a crust on the steak, but you could use brown sugar if you don’t have turbinado. The main marker of this spice rub is that everything is chunky. That’s a good sign of a rub. If you just used iodized or fine sea salt, it would over-absorb into the meat. The chunkiness has the added benefit of providing pops of flavor, a concept that may be my life’s mantra.
I’m using a black sea salt from Iceland in this mix. (There’s one in my shop if you are curious). It’s no surprise that the island is full of salt options, but I was dazzled by the endless assortment of flavors, many of which start with a black lava salt. I came home loaded with blueberry, grey lava, crowberry with chili, black lava and about 10 more. The one in my shop is not Icelandic, but it’s also not the one that promises to be anti-Wiccan and claims to reverse spells, remove jinxes and keep away bad neighbors. Buy that at your own risk. 🙂
This spice rub is great for so much more than just the Tomahawk. I hope you will make up a batch and let me know how you plan to use it.
Summer Harvest Bounty Menu
Now that we are set on the main, what else sounds good? As a petitPot Lucky, my fearless guests hit the market and came out swinging. We started with these yummy Goat Cheese Tarts with Fresh Herbs and Heirloom Tomatoes.
And speaking of tomatoes, how about this Caprese Antipasti? Caperberries can be a challenge to source, but fear not, they too are in my shop.
And how about this wonderful combo of shaved cauliflower and radicchio? It’s packed with fresh herbs and doused with a smoked whitefish mayo. Look for the recipe in a wonderful new A to Z vegetable cookbook Ruffage, penned by a southwest Michigan chef and farmer Abra Berens. It’s all about farm to table – to be exact, Granor Farm to table, a journey of a mere 50 feet.
Shaved cauliflower salad with smoked whitefish mayo, lemon, radicchio and herbs (Recipe from Ruffage).
While the meat rested, we started with that trio, then moved on to the Tomahawk with the Green Machine Salsa Verde and Ina Garten’s Potato Fennel Gratin. Luckily that woman is not afraid of heavy cream and Gruyere. It was wonderful to have such a decadent side and yes, happily, there were some leftovers. Yahoo! There was plenty of yummy pinot to go around and I pulled out a couple bottles of Cherry Pie, a California favorite. Yum.
One of my favorites on the table was a duo of stuffed vegetables – zucchini and eggplants, one stuffed with ground bison and the other with ground lamb. Both were filled to overflowing with delicious grains, tomatoes, corn, plenty of herbs, and smothered with zesty tomato sauce and shredded cheese. Heaven on a platter!!
I know – the mind reels that there could be more, but nobody was going away hungry. Two salads crowned the buffet. Both have been here on the blog before and are about to come out with a fresh face very soon. The Everything but the Farmer Farmers’ Market Salad – a perfect summer harvest chopped salad of corn, so tender it took only a minute or two on the grill, grilled tomatillos, tomatoes, arugula, sprouts, arugula flowers, bacon and avo. And Roasted Yellow and Garnet Beets with Peaches and Goat Cheese and topped with a cascade of fresh basil. Sometimes I use nectarines. Sometimes I use fresh mint. But choose whatever is available locally and plenty ripe. I love to give it a drizzle with a fruity balsamic like raspberry, but an aged Balsamico is also delish.
And for the crowning glory – drum roll please – a peach and blueberry tart. I mean, could you die?? The sun was setting fast………on the evening, the season and the markets, fading with every last bite. But with the end of one season, a new one begins. And so, it goes. Circle of life.
I hope you too will circle up the friends and family, and pull together a meal as epic as this feast. Every morsel was perfectly seasoned, and every crumb gobbled up. I can’t think of a more respectable way to pay homage to the bounty that summer brings. Breaking bread with those you love is indeed a privilege. Amen to that!
All you need to know about Tomahawk Steaks and how to cook them, plus a zesty spice rub good for so much more. This chunky rub has the added benefit of providing pops of flavor, and its black lava salt helps keep jinxes at bay.
Place the coriander seeds in a mini chopper or spice grinder and pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Repeat with the Tellicherry peppercorns.
Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and stir to combine.
Store in an airtight container.
1/2 cup makes enough for 4 Tomahawk Steaks or 12 single portion steaks.
Also good on other cuts of beef, lamb, poultry and more.
See post for details on how to cook Tomahawk Steaks!
Prep Time:5 minutes
Method:Dump & Stir
Keywords: spice rub, Tomahawk Steaks
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I have officially seen one too many cooks’ gift guides where everybody’s an expert on what you simply must buy for your food-loving friend, spouse, sib, kid, in-law, and more. Spoiler alert: they pretend to have your best interests in mind, but more likely they are just pushing product. Enough already, I declare. Let’s talk about how to buy these gifts and what you should consider as you look for a special gift for the food lover in your life (or your own self). I prefer to say these gifts are for anyone who has ever eaten food. You don’t have to be a food LOVER to enjoy some of these items. Being a food EATER is sufficient. My gift to you is help in navigating the purchase decision, important especially on big ticket items, but also on stocking stuffers because nobody wants to give a dud.
You may not know it, but I have a shop of my favorite items on my website. I have linked most items directly to the Amazon item, but there are a few links here to the shop where you can see all the must-have tools of the trade. And yes, I have an Amazon affiliate relationship, too. It is a good way to help a blogger defray the costs of recipe testing, et al, and to bring quality content at no cost to you. But at least for me, nobody is going to Club Med on the proceeds. I truly am a big fan of all the products that are there and either a lifelong user, a new super fan, or in the rare case (looking at you Vitamix), I have it on my own shopping list. I have nearly 100 items in the shop at this point and am always getting requests from my followers to help make a purchase decision. So if you have something to buy and you are not sure, just ask. It will go into the shop so others can benefit from our joint research. The links from the shop will drop you right into your Amazon account, logged in and ready to Prime ship, if that is the way your browser keeps you logged in. One last note on Amazon: I try to pick the least expensive offering that is Prime-eligible, but these things change rapidly. So do keep in mind that my recommendation is for the product and brand, and shop around as you always do. And be sure to read all Amazon reviews with a grain of salt. Or a shot of tequila. Or both. Who you gonna believe – Bizzle6739 or me?
And don’t miss the last section of this post for home-made gifts and gifts to charity. Give the gift that keeps on giving. Invest in the future of our world. ♥
Whimsical Gifts for Entertaining
So this section does not in fact need a drill-down on purchase decision criteria, but I wanted to kick off this cooks’ gift guide with some fun things. Jesse Steele makes the cutest aprons with all sorts of whimsical prints. How adorbs is this Eiffel Tower print? She sells them with dots, and checks, and cherries. Or how about a candy cane wreath print for this season? Many prints are 50s-reminiscent. And they come in Mommy & Me styles. What a lovely hostess gift.
Now let’s just get busy with Bacon Tongs. I don’t think they really need much more than a loud MUST HAVE. Bacon for the Takin? Bwahahaha!! Yes this is pretty specific, but it’s clever and oh so very unlikely to be a duplicate gift.
Tomato, Tomahto. I say Bloody Mary. This is another cute item from Mud Pie, one of my favorite gift lines in my shop. Don’t miss the spreader set or salad bowl and tongs.
And one more idea for entertaining – in this case especially for the coffee lover on your list – the Nespresso Milk Frother. This game-changer can turn a basic cup of joe or your special blend pour-over into something sublime. Spoon some high quality froth onto whatever you are drinking. Hot chocolate? Warm winter cocktail? Sounds perfect.
Gifts to Stuff a Stocking
Okay, I need a bunch of you to skip this paragraph or at least act surprised. This is my 2018 stocking stuffer. I have a lot of props and gadgets from years of foodstyling – a storage space-full, to be exact. Many are rarely used so they will stay in pristine condition and look good on television. I have started using them all recently. And this was the peeler (by Microplane) that I grabbed when getting ready for Thanksgiving. Life changed. It’s just as sharp and wonderful as the Microplane grater (also in my shop) is for zesting, but this time for peeling, with hands safely out of the way. Everyone needs one. Now.
I have been touting the virtues of a potato ricer for as long as I have been blogging, but it seems that this needs to be used for people to fall in love with it. One follower took one to her Thanksgiving family visit and then went out and got one for everyone on her list. It is really magical because it avoids the need for beaters or masher or whatever you use now. You just boil potato chunks and push through this giant garlic-press-of-a- tool. Then just stir in milk and butter (and for me, goat cheese and thyme) and hit the table. So easy.
Oh, a can opener would be a wonderful stocking stuffer, said no one ever. Until now. This can opener is by OXO, the Good Grips people, and cuts the lid off while leaving a smooth edge. I feel good about using this because recycling is so much safer. No sharp edges to hurt your own family, and none as this empty (and rinsed) can goes off to meet its (recycling) maker.
If you have ever used these Govino roadie wine glasses in the past, be pleasantly surprised that they are now dishwasher safe. And by roadie, I mean glasses you might carry to a picnic, or a concert or boating – someplace where you want something shatterproof. I originally found these at the Museum of Modern Art, and they definitely have a design flair about them. But now they are even more practical and easier to use and much less expensive. When you can’t drink from glass, these are a lovely option.
Cooks’ Gift Guide for Classic Keepers
These cooks’ gifts are an investment, but they will last a lifetime if you take care of them. I have a blender, juicer, food processor, standmixer, knives, and more that I have had for 30+ years. Yes, they can be pricey, but buying from a reputable company that stands by its products goes a long way, especially in this disposable age we now occupy. When you look at my shop, you will see the same brands represented across items again and again. I have no sponsored relationship with these companies, but I really believe in their products. OXO for gadgets and tools; KitchenAid for countertop appliances; Staub, Lodge, Calphalon, Mauviel, and Le Creuset for pots and pans; Emile Henry for ceramics; and Henckels, Sabatier, and Wustof for cutlery. I’m sharing a select few of my favorites here, along with details on what makes them so outstanding.
I love all things Staub. This is a 4-quart cocotte, a covered oven-proof casserole. It comes in a rainbow of luscious colors. I’m partial to cherry red. The lid on the cast iron Staub cocotte is designed to retain more liquid, creating a self-basting system, and the knob is ovenproof to nearly 500°F. These pieces will last a lifetime and work on all cook-surfaces including induction.
Emile Henry is my go-to for all things ceramic. I have them in round, oval, scalloped edge, rectangular and many colors. This is an extra-large lasagna pan, measuring 17 x 11. I first discovered the brand during my time in France – the company was founded there in 1850 – but they have become ever more popular in the US since then. Emile Henry is prized for its high-fired Burgundy clay. As a result, it is well suited for heat retention, is resistant to temperature changes, and is scratch resistant.
This 18/10 stainless steel roasting pan is by Mauviel, a company dating back to 1830s France. I love this pan because it is “stick”. Non-stick roasting pans just don’t develop the fond, the drippings on the bottom, essential to gravy-making. It’s okay to have a non-stick rack in my opinion, but I want my pan to be able to let drippings develop color. This 5-layer construction has a stainless interior, 3 layers of aluminum for heat conductivity and a bottom layer of magnetic stainless for induction use. The heavily riveted handles are sturdy and safe, wide enough to use oven mitts, and best of all, it’s guaranteed for life.
Zwilling J. A. Henckels is one of several cutlery brands I adore, including Sabatier, Wüstof and VictorInox. I find that many people are afraid of their knives and chose lightweight flimsy knives, often dull. There is nothing more dangerous. Dull knives slip. If you want to really up your culinary game, invest in a good knife, keep it sharp, and take a knife skills class. I like this Italian-designed and German-made knife because of its rocking blade. This Pro 7-inch Rocking Santoku knife allows an easier attack for Western “chef-chopping,” keeping the knife tip down and rocking to cut with a forward motion. Chopping and slicing should both be done with a forward motion. Owning a good sharp rocking blade lets the knife do the work and minimizes fatigue. This knife is honed and hand-finished from a single piece of high carbon steel (it’s 57 on the Rockwell scale which means excellent edge retention) and has a special formula no-stain finish, so you get the best of carbon steel without its typical staining.
Gifts for the Wine Lover
This comprehensive guide to the fifty red wine essential varieties and styles is written by my friends and neighbors, Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen (The World Wine Guys) and Kevin Zraly (founder of the Windows on the World Wine School). The book (winner of the Gormand International Award for Best Drink Book) is organized by type of grapes, not regions, with recommendations from bargain to special occasion, as well as food pairings, beautiful photography, and engaging stories from the vineyards. You’ll want one for yourself.
Also from a friend, Gabriel-Glas is the only wine glass you will ever need. Who needs a different glass for every wine you pour? The Gabriel-Glas is new to the American market, thanks to my friend Tempe Reichardt. This Austrian-made lead-free crystal is both delicate and elegant while also being sturdy and dishwasher safe. I didn’t know I needed new glasses until I started using this one. The broader base of the bottom of the glass is a “bouquet-driver,” while the slightly conical design concentrates the aromas.
These make a lovely hostess gift or wedding present, but my money is on buying them for yourself. Sommeliers and wine-makers alike say this is the perfect glass to use for all wines.However if you want to use a flute for bubbles, Gabriel-Glas has got you covered.
Gifts for the Big-Hearted
For those that don’t need a thing or would rather help others, what about something home-made or something charitable? Or both? A gift to charity, with a little sumthin’ sumthin’ on the side that shows you have added a little extra love. Here are two home-made culinary gifts I have shared in the past. Ingredients and containers (spice jars and candy tins) are both linked through my shop.
This is a tasty combo of citrus salt and zesty pepper. Giving something that is home-made is always appreciated and you will likely get bonus points for something that can be consumed. Win. Win. Win. Jars, salt and all you need are in the shop.
And this is Grandmother Keck’s recipe. It’s a pretty classic English Toffee but she called it butterscotch. And despite the fact that I first made it when I was 10 and never wrote it down, to this day I remember the proportions. One pound of brown sugar and two sticks of butter (minus one Tablespoon from each stick). The recipe in this post explains it better, but it was something I have remembered for decades. Such a treat!
I’m a big fan of giving to charities in lieu of gifts. As I am about to join the Executive Committee of the Board of Church World Service, I can’t think of a more worthy cause. CWS has a 70-year track record committed to making sure there is #Enough4All Their work provides hunger relief, among many other services, and is critically focused on ensuring proper nutrition for the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. This is key to their development and healthy growth and essential in realizing their full potential later in life. CWS works with communities to find ways to feed themselves sustainably and nutritiously. I currently am trying to meet a $2500 goal and am extremely grateful to all of you who have and are considering a donation to this cause.
And for those that want to buy the best gift ever, CWS offers a best gift catalog. Two hens and a rooster? $18. How about a goat in Haiti for $65? Invest in women; in refugees; in water; in disaster relief. You will be surprised how far a small investment will go. Gifts come with recognition cards, letting your giftee know just how thoughtful you were.
And lastly, this beautiful cookbook The Bread and Salt Between Us was just written as a labor of love by Syrian refugee Mayada Anjari. The good people of Rutgers Presbyterian Church, in partnership with CWS’s refugee resettlement program, brought Mayada and her family to the U.S. two-plus years ago, after they had spent several years as refugees in Jordan. Mrs. Anjari illustrates how that first church-prepared welcome meal, and a reciprocal meal of Syrian food that she later prepared at Rutgers, built a lasting bridge simply through breaking bread. It’s a wonderful collection of recipes, stories and mouth-watering photos, but most of all fellowship. Proceeds support Mayada and her family, as well as the New Americans Committee at Rutgers to further their work of welcoming and resettling refugees. Food & Wine called this one of the best cookbooks coming out this fall, and the New York Times recently featured Mayada in its feature “The First Thanksgiving”. This is a can’t-miss gift for a truly worthy cause!
Well that’s a wrap for this shopping season. Santa has been very, very busy!! Please comment and let me know how your shopping is going. And of course let me know if you find something in the best gift catalog! I hope your shopping is stress-free and your holiday is joyous! Wishing you all the best for this season!!
This post contains affiliate links. For more of my must-have faves, visit my shop.
You’re driving me crackers, she said to this weather. Luckily this tasty little number is neither season- nor weather-dependent. I found my inspo for this recipe in a fancy store in California (Market Hall in Berkeley, if you must know), and I just might have eaten my weight in them. After “serving” them to guests two nights in a row, while secretly polishing them off on my own in the kitchen, I decided it was time to stop paying this fool’s ransom and knock them off for myself. Armed with only a visual on the seed varietals and my longstanding loyalty to a good cheese crisp, I took it upon myself to try to replicate and I must say I nailed it first try. You’re welcome!! The base recipe for these – when seed-free – reminds me of the signature dish at an early Lidia Bastianich restaurant – Frico. The frico, as a dish,is a melted cheese crisp, usually made with unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Friuli called Montasio. At the restaurant, these cheese crisps crowned salads and were often stuffed with potatoes or mushrooms and more, served as an appetizer. How I miss this!
But, oh my, these Cali ones were chock-full of seeds, which provides more crunch and an additional level of nuttiness. Yahoo. As I was testing them, I remembered a frequent guest that I cooked for during my days as the food stylist at The Rosie O’Donnell show. Marjorie Johnson, from Minna-so-TA, dont’cha know. At 4’8”, this feisty redhead, always decked out in a red dress, topped with a red apron, is pure sass. Here she is in 2016 at the Anoka County Fair, where she won 52 ribbons, including 22 blue and the sweepstakes prize for her tea ring. Yes, those are all hers…from that week!
I met Marjorie before the millennium, and her goal was to have 2000 blue ribbons by the year 2000. She has well over 2500 now and has not slowed down one bit. Her secret, she told me, to beefing up her ribbon count was to enter random categories with less competition……………like crackers. And we’re back. Temporarily. (I must add that is something I was long aware of – don’t take the easiest path using a sweet ingredient in a dessert. Work harder and come up with something that is unexpected.) I haven’t seen Marjorie in a while, but we keep in touch and I have her book. I’ll never forget the segments we did with Alec Baldwin or Paul and Nell Newman after Marjorie won a load of dough from Newman’s Own. It all went to her favorite charity – American Cancer Society in Minnesota – and they in turn crowned her the belle of the ball, tiara and all. I think Alec summed it up best – while on his knees to meet Marjorie eye to eye – “We need more Marjories!!”
Seeded Cheese Crisps
I debated calling this a Cheese Krackle instead of a Cheese Crisp, because the seeds make it so much more than a Crisp. Such decisions!?! Luckily the recipe is much more straightforward than that challenge. I really don’t need to tell you in great detail about this recipe, because once I locked in the ratio of ingredients, it pretty much baked itself. Instead of Montasio, I chose a rosemary Asiago, an Italian cow’s milk gold medal winner at the 2008 World Championship Cheese Contest, and Fontina Fontal, also Italian, and also cow’s milk…from our friends at The Cheese Lady, of course. The Asiago adds a bit of tang and the Fontina is a sublime melting cheese. Keep the cheeses cold until you grate them, as they tend to be a bit softer than many cheeses we often grate. I used the big holes on a box grater.
Add all the seeds to the grated cheese and mix well to combine. You may find that as you dole out the mixture onto a sheet pan that the smaller seeds will settle so be sure to keep mixing as you go.
You will need two or three batches on a half-sheet pan to bake off all the mixture. If you need to re-use a pan for a later batch, let it cool to room temp first so it doesn’t throw off your oven timing. I used two Tablespoons mixture per cracker and flattened them a bit with my fingertips for even cooking. You will need to leave a little space between them, but more for an easy removal than to accommodate massive spreading.
Bake at 375o for 7 – 8 minutes until the crisps are lightly golden. Remove the pans from the oven and let the cheese crisps cool slightly on the sheet pans until they firm up. Then you can transfer quickly to a wire rack using an offset spatula. I would tell you to store them in an airtight container once cooled, but let’s be real – are you going to have any leftovers? Kind of doubt it!!!
These are tasty as a garnish for soups and salads, or as an accoutrement to a cheese or meze spread. Call it a Krackle, call it a Crisp, but definitely call it delicious.
When you give this loaded cheese crisp a whirl, tag me on Instagram and as always, I LOVE to see your comments below.
This seed-filled cheese crisp is great on top of a soups and salads, or as an accoutrement to a cheese or meze spread. Call it a Krackle, call it a Crisp, but definitely call it delicious. And while you are at it, double up on the recipe. You’re gonna want more.
3 ounces grated Asiago, or 1 1/3 cups
1 ounce grated Fontina Fontal, or 1/3 cup
3 1/2 ounces raw shelled pumpkin seeds, or 2/3 cup
1 ounce raw shelled sunflower seeds, or 1/4 cup
3 Tablespoons sesame seeds, or 1 ounce
1 Tablespoon flax seeds, or 1/2 ounce
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds, or 1/3 ounce
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 375o F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well. The smaller seeds may settle so be sure to stir as you dole out the mixture.
Divide the mixture into crackers, allowing 2 Tablespoon per cracker. Flatten any mounds to a uniform thickness.
Bake for 7 – 8 minutes until lightly golden. Cool slightly on the sheet pans until they firm up, and then quickly transfer to a wire rack using an offset spatula. Store in an airtight container once cooled.
I used a rosemary Asiago but plain works well too.
Keep the cheeses cold until you grate them, using a box grater. They are a bit soft so they don’t grate as well at room temperature as a harder cheese, like Parmesan.
These are delicious on top of a soup or a salad, or as an accoutrement to a cheese or meze spread, but do note they are not sturdy like a Ritz, so don’t go planning to spread your Cheez Whiz atop. Who are you anyway??:)
Prep Time:10 minutes
Cook Time:10 minutes
This post contains affiliate links. For more of my must-have faves, visit my shop.
Seasonings Greetings! Just saying that reminds me of the Christmas card from years ago where I clipped measuring spoons to my lobes and stood among hip-high bags of spices in a market – caption: Seasonings Greetings. Cheesy? You betcha. But that’s the way I roll. And giving gifts that are edible is another way I roll. Be honest. What rivals something homemade? Maybeeeeeee….something that you can use up? I think so. This salt & pepper gift pairing does double duty as homemade and consumable, and it is a perfect stocking stuffer. Or a gift exchange. Or a hostess gift.
Citrus and Seeds
This salt blend benefits from a quick round of oven-drying citrus zest. Combining orange, lemon and grapefruit adds just the right amount of sweetness and acidity. And, the added fennel and celery seeds add a hint of fresh herbs, but provide a shelf life longer-lasting than fresh.
Picking the Right Salt
I am a big fan of Maldon Sea Salt and use it for its flaky form as a finishing salt. It’s delicate and thin, with crispy flakes. And great news! When I initially started making salts a few years ago (my maiden voyage in gift salts was a trio of this spiced citrus, along with kale-walnut and hazelnut-spice), I found a 3.3 pound tub of Maldon which had to be shipped from England, where the salt has been harvested along the coast since the early 1800s. Today that tub is available on Amazon. It makes using an uber high quality salt easily sourced and affordable for gift making, with plenty left over for personal use. Try it on anything that needs a sprinkle of salt – like chocolate espresso shortbread or salted caramels.
Zesting the Citrus Peel
When zesting the citrus to make the salt blend, I like to use a bar tool that makes long thin strips (use the section with the little holes, not the channel knife.) But you can also easily use a microplane which works well in removing only the outer peel of the citrus. The key is to avoid grating too deeply, thereby grabbing the white pith which adds unwanted bitterness.
Mix all the salt ingredients and spread out on a parchment-lined sheet pan and pop in the oven. It should take about 20 minutes to dry out the zest, but check after 15 minutes and give the salt a stir.
From Zesting to Zesty
And what’s salt without pepper? Salt: sister from another mister. Pepper: brother from another mother. Salt & Pepper: we are fam-i-ly! This particular pepper blend was introduced to me by a dear friend. I made my own ratios so the end result is a bit different, but she was spot on in marrying cardamon and coriander with black pepper to get a blend with more zip than any ingredient could deliver on its own. Yahoo!
Once the blends are assembled and the salt is fully cooled, the only thing left to do is put them in cute little spice jars, tied with a decorative label identifying the goods inside. I have taken these to a gift exchange, and this was the top sought after gift once the stealing began. Showing up with an armful of these salt & pepper gifts at any holiday party is sure to earn you the Best Guest tiara!! Enjoy!
Nothing is better than a handmade holiday gift. In my book, bonus points if it can be consumed and if it adds a little sumthin’ sumthin’ to my pantry. This spiced citrus salt and zesty pepper blend is my favorite spice combo! Salt & Pepper, you rock!!!
Preheat oven to 275oF. Line sheet pan with parchment.
Mix salt with citrus zests and ground seeds. Mix until well combined. Spread evenly on the parchment paper and bake until the zest is fully dehydrated, about 20 minutes. Check after about 15 minutes and stir the salt, turning over the bottom which may still be a bit wet. Once completely dried, remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
Transfer to sterilized airtight containers. Stores well for at least 3 months.