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2019 Foodie Gift Guide Perfection

2019 Foodie Gift Guide Perfection

Holiday decor with macarons

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!

Not actual sizeLast 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

Children's Gingerbread Man ApronMy 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 Tower print last year? 

Kitchen-Towels-with-'tude: foodie gift guide

 

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. 

Pineapple-Pitcher

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. 

Gluttony-Peppermint-Bark CandleChef 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. 

Mud Pie Kitchen Canisters

 

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

OXO Ice ScoopThis 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.

Microplane Peeler

 

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.

2019 goes down in the record book as the year I discovered Earlywood. This collection of heirloom-quality kitchen and serving utensils is both highly Earlywood Spreader Setfunctional and elegant. Created using jatoba, hard maple, Mexican ebony, and bloodwood, the pieces are not only beautiful, strong and long-lasting, but also renewable. On the right is a three piece set with a spreader, a pan scraper and a spatula, as well as a four piece spreader set, shown to the left.

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 

Souper Cubes Freezing TrayHere 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. Classic Wooden Ladle

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. 

Beast Bowl Nutrition

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 Ruffage A Practical Guide to Vegetablesalphabetical 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

Truffle Hot Sauce

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. Walla Essential Spice Set

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.

DIY Artisan Hot Sauce Kit

 

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.

Staub12" Cast Iron Fry PanI 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 TagineEmile 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). 

Brick and Mortar Board

I’m probably half in love with this board from Brooklyn Butcher Blocks because the name is Brick and Mortar BoardMortar 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!

Cheese Grotto (Fresco): Foodie Gift GuideIs 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!!

Gabriel Glas

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. 

Slate Cheese Board and KnifeThis 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

Zesty spice rub

 

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. 

Best Cheese Crisp

 

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.

Making a Kahlua and Cream Cocktail

 

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. 

Warm Thai Peanuts

 

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!

CWS Best Gift GuideI’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 Giving MachineCWS 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?

Ration Challenge

 

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.

 

giving machine trio

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!! 

Penguins on a holiday march
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? 

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2019. All rights reserved.

 

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The Ration Challenge: Change Starts Here!

The Ration Challenge: Change Starts Here!

Ration ChallengeAre you hungry for change? Don’t know where to start to make a difference in this world? Me either. But I am lucky enough to have connected with CWS (I’m on the board) and their partner, Australian-based Act for Peace, so I can take on the challenge of eating the rations of a Syrian refugee for one week. More on the Ration Challenge in a minute. But first…

Why???? The Refugee Crisis.

Too often we turn on the news and there is nothing but bad news. Overwhelming problems with seemingly no solutions. However….conflicts that have the potential to divide us could actually lead us to meaningful impact, meaningful change were we to unite. The crisis in Syria has been going on for more than 8 years. During that time, hundreds of thousands have been killed and cities have been reduced to rubble. The numbers are staggering. Millions of men, women and children around the world have been forced out of their homes because of conflict or natural disaster. They desperately need somewhere to resettle and rebuild their lives, but there aren’t enough countries willing or able to respond to that need. Refugees spend an average 27 years in camp

It’s a humanitarian crisis on an unprecedented scale. And one that we can, and must, respond to.

A Family Displaced

If you dig deeper than the headlines, you will find that the 25 million displaced beyond their own country’s borders are just like us. They are mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters. And they want to NOT worry about food or a roof over their heads. They want to work so they can send their children to school. Right now, if they are “lucky,” they will find a refugee camp in a nearby country. Global humanitarian relief agencies, CWS among them, provide aid to these refugees. Ration kits top the list of critically needed aid. Boxes are delivered to camps and are packed to feed a family of six for a one-month period. Often there aren’t enough boxes to service the entire camp, so a committee of volunteer refugees makes the difficult decision on deciding which families need it most.

ration deliveries

Receiving the Rations

 What is the Ration Challenge?

The Ration Challenge is a global campaign to raise awareness and funds by eating the rations of a Syrian refugee living in Jordan for one week. It gives only a glimpse of refugee life. My ration kit is like those delivered to camp, except it’s just for me and just for one week. Unlike those in camps, I have a place to live, am not recovering from recent trauma and I not only know that my family is alive, I know where they are.  Here is what my kit looks like and what’s on the menu for the upcoming week.

rice rice rice

 I started yesterday with mujadara. It’s normally rice and lentils and a whole lot of flavor from onions and spices, but this is just rice and lentils. I have already eaten it four times in two days. The photo on the right is the mujadara from my blog. Remember how great the house smelled after fixing that delicious dish? It’s a far cry from plain rice and lentils. To be fair, I am able to use salt and pepper. These are two treats I have earned by raising money. These fundraising incentives – or rewards – allow me to add a few items throughout the week – one vegetable, a 4-ounce protein, a 12-ounce beverage. I don’t talk about the rewards much because this is not about me. But the Ration Challenge creators have cleverly added these incentives to symbolize the resilience and resourcefulness of refugees. If allowed by local laws, refugees hustle to complete odd jobs, trading and selling handcrafts, so that they can supplement their rations. 

mujadara before and after

How Can You Help?

This campaign raises awareness from all of us that talk about it. It increases empathy and understanding by (simulating) walking in their shoes for a mere nano-second. But so importantly, it raises funds to be part of the solution. I am grateful to the many who have already donated to this campaign. My very generous friends, colleagues, followers and family have raised enough to provide access to life-saving medical specialists for more than 330 people!!! I repeat – for 330 PEOPLE!! Wouldn’t it be great if we could make it a nice round 500? Or in food terms, it would only take a few more donations to provide 20 Syrian refugees food for an entire year!! All money raised goes to providing food, education and medical care, as well as support the ongoing work of CWS to help vulnerable people rebuild their lives in safety. Can you please join me in supporting this life-changing cause with your tax-deductible donation??!!

Beware I'm HangryOne of my dear friends and fellow CWS board member Vy Nguyen is himself a refugee, fleeing from Vietnam at the age of four on the back of a motorbike, while leaving half his family behind. He recently wrote a piece for the San Francisco Chronicle that breathtakingly recounts his harrowing journey, all juxtaposed against the lessons he hopes to teach his own four-year-old today. Lessons of empathy and compassion. Prayers that his son not only knows what it means to belong, but how to welcome the stranger among us. ❤️

25 million. That’s the staggering number of those internationally displaced. As a statistic its unimaginable. But lest we forget, it is made up entirely of individual people and families, all with stories of endless suffering and brave endurance in the face of life-threatening challenges. They are us. We are them. Just under a different set of circumstances. My tiny glimpse into their lives through rationing has increased my empathy 1000-fold. 

Refugee in Jordan

I appreciate the compassion and care that my community here at Palate. Passion. Purpose. shares. I thought you’d love this bumper sticker I pinched from a fellow challenger on Facebook. Doesn’t it say it all?

longer table

Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to this cause near and dear to my heart. And no matter what, please share your support via the comments below!! Thank you!!!

Photos in addition to mine are courtesy of CWS, The Ration Challenge, and Act for Peace.

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2019. All rights reserved.

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Cooks’ Gift Guide: How to Pick a Perfect Present

Cooks’ Gift Guide: How to Pick a Perfect Present

Foodie's Best Gift Guide

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

Jesse Steele ApronsSo 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. 

Bacon Tongs

 

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. 

Bloody Mary Pitcher

 

 

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. 

Nespresso Milk Frother

 

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

Microplane Peeler

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.

OXO Good-Grips Potato Ricer

 

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.

OXO Good-Grips Smooth Edge Can Opener

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. 

 

Govino Dishwasher Safe Wine Glasses

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.

Staub 4-quart CocotteI 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 Large Baking DishEmile 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.  

Mauviel-Roasting-Pan-and-Rack

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. 

Henckels-Pro-7-Rocking-Santoku-Knife

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

Red Wine The Comprehensive Guide

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. 

Gabriel Glas

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. 

Gabriel-Glas-Champagne-Flutes-Set-of-6These 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

Filling the Spice Jars

 

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.

Toffee Ready To Go

 

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!

 

CWS HungerI’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

Myanmar chickensAnd 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. 

The-Bread-and-Salt-Between-Us

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!! 

Cooks' Gift Guide
This post contains affiliate links. For more of my must-have faves, visit my shop.

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Hunger: Breaking (and Sharing) Bread

Hunger: Breaking (and Sharing) Bread

Harry Truman

I’m struck once again by the cyclical nature of the universe. Different times, different responses, same problem – a world full of hunger. This month marks seventy years since Harry Truman broadcast the first televised address from the White House. Since most households still didn’t have television in that post-war era, the story came across the airwaves as well. Truman’s request was basic, yet eloquent:

  1. Use no meat on Tuesdays
  2. Use no poultry or eggs on Thursdays
  3. Save a slice of bread every day
  4. Public eating places will serve bread and butter only on request

Food Rations

“It is simple and straightforward,” said the President. “It can be understood by all. Learn it – memorize it – keep it always in mind.” (NY Times, Oct 6, 1947) Winter was settling in and Americans cutting their consumption of proteins and grains would help hungry Europeans struggling to rebuild.  Church World Service (I’m a board member) started with Friendship Trains that crisscrossed the country picking up food donations for transport to Europe. The last stop was New York City where a ticker tape parade sent these cars on their way, while celebrating Americans’ proud role in this hunger effort.

Hunger Breaking Sharing Bread

Truman went on to say “If the peace should be lost because we failed to share our food with hungry people, there would be no more tragic example in all history of a peace needlessly lost” … ” the food-saving program announced tonight offers an opportunity to each of you to make a contribution to the peace.” 

The White House menus for that Tuesday and Thursday?

Tuesday luncheon

–grapefruit, cheese soufflé, buttered peas, grilled tomatoes, chocolate pudding

Tuesday dinner

–clear chicken soup, broiled salmon steak, scalloped potatoes, string beans, sautéed eggplant, perfection salad, sliced peaches

Thursday luncheon

–corn soup, peppers stuffed with rice and mushrooms, lima beans, glazed carrots, baked apples

Thursday dinner

–melon balls, baked ham, baked sweet potatoes, asparagus, cauliflower, green salad, coffee mallow

Got a hankering for perfection salad? Mrs. Truman would be so proud!

Perfection Salad

perfection salad recipe

 

That was then; this is now!

If only those efforts ended world hunger. With the earth’s population tripling in those 70 years (while the planet has pretty much stayed the same size!), hunger continues to persist. Obviously, I’m be dramatic and grossly simplifying what is a complicated situation. There are many factors at play, but there ARE also a few things we can all do to be part of the solution.

Sharing is Caring

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization marks World Food Day each year on October 16, the day on which the Organization was founded in 1945. Despite many gains over the last decade, global hunger is unfortunately on the rise again. The newest numbers show an estimated 815 million people around the world are hungry and malnourished, especially those living in rural areas. Even here in the US, 85% of those in rural counties report persistent poverty – with many also suffering from food insecurity and childhood hunger.  How can you help??? I thought you’d never ask!

Hunger

Walk for the Cause

All year long, but especially in the fall, walkers from all faiths recruit pledges to support their walks to benefit the CROP program. Over the past 25 years, more than $300 million has been raised to benefit those in need both in the local community and around the world. People of all ages join to form teams and raise awareness to the plight of so many who are hungry. You too can organize a team. What a great way to enjoy this weather and help a brother out! If you are not a walker, but still want to help raise awareness and funds, you can add your financial support to my hunger campaign at TeamCWS.

Be Less Wasteful

In the US, we are still wasting 40% of our food supply. That’s a crying shame.  About a year ago when I first started writing about food waste, I took on two very simple habits and have not only saved food, but saved a stash of cash while doing so.

40% Food Waste

 

  1. Before I lose any fruit that is about to spoil, I trim, peel, chop or whatever is needed and put it in Ziplocs in the freezer. Ripe bananas ready for banana bread? Check! Blueberries for my smoothie. You bet!! I sometimes find multiple things going at once and make smoothie packs…. like one cup blueberries, 1/2 pear and 1/4 avocado in one Ziploc ready for my chia smoothie. Just add coconut milk and chia. (Thanks Lyn-Genet!)
  2. And before I lose vegetables, I make soup. If I don’t have time to make a full batch, I will sauté the vegetables and cover them in stock and then freeze, so I have a soup starter when I do have time.

You can thank me later!

Feeding the Future

As all this waste was churning through my mind, I happened upon a food truck on Columbus Avenue one Sunday afternoon. Or was it? No, despite handing out burgers (or were they?), it was not a food truck. It was The Economist. They were wrangling subscribers, but by highlighting a very real issue, while handing out pea burgers. How do our culinary trends and food production impact our planet? I have to say this graphic caught my eye.

Cost of Livestock

Their campaign Feeding the Future (please, please, please check out the amazing info here!) raises very real questions about everyday decisions that have meaningful impact on climate change.  Meatless Monday does more than cut your own cholesterol. It reduces methane gases. More greenhouse emissions from agriculture than all motorized transport combined? Color me surprised.

Pea Burger

I tried their pea-based burger and it surprisingly tasted and felt like beef. I am not sure that is a good thing. I usually like alternatives that are a replacement with a whole new concept. Innovate don’t mimic. But the point was well taken – you can have a meaty burger without killing a cow. Don’t worry – I’m not going all veg-head on you, but if we sub a few alternatives here and there, those drops in a bucket across millions of people will add up to positive impact. I swear it!

#RealSchoolFood

And if none of this is for you, here is something that you can do for school children with virtually no effort. Everybody is for healthy food for schoolchildren, right?

Real School Food

Snap a photo of yourself/your friend/your dog holding a sign that is tagged #RealSchoolFood and post on social media. Make sure it is public (if posting on Facebook) and tag my friend Chef Ann! (Facebook: @Chef Ann Foundation, Twitter: @ChefAnnFnd, Instagram: @chefannfoundation). And for that tiny little effort on your part, the sponsors of #RealSchoolFood will donate a $1 to improve school meals for all our kids. I call that a winner!

Find a way to make a difference. And help spread the word. Here’s to better eating for all!!

#RealSchoolFood

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Are You Hungry For More?

Are You Hungry For More?

Hunger Hits the Most Vulnerable

Or are you just hungry? My guess is that you are sitting at your computer or with your iPad and finishing off your Morning Joe & Scone. Or maybe it’s a green smoothie. A Starbucks triple double frapalatte? Whatever it was or whenever you are reading this, I doubt you have this many hands reaching for the only orange or are as truly hungry as the 795 million food insecure people on this planet.

Did you know?

66 million attend school hungry

Or how about this fact?

14% of US Households Face Food Insecurity

The number is higher if there are children in the household.

But we got this! You can join me in making a difference! Helping others is very important to me and I know that it is to you, too! It doesn’t take much to have meaningful impact.

I recently hosted a fajita Pot Lucky (post coming soon) and looking at that wonderful, bountiful feast truly highlighted how blessed we are. I asked my guests to join me in this fight against hunger and many did. Thank you to all that have supported this campaign. For my birthday (today, if you insist on knowing!) this year, I am partnering with CWS to raise funds to fight hunger. As a member of the CWS Board of Directors, I can personally assure you that your help WILL make a positive difference in this fight.

Fighting Hunger

A little bit goes so far. 

Impact for Donations on Hunger

Help me support an organization with a 70+ year track record of successfully doing the work, every day, to support hungry people and create sustainable solutions that improve conditions for people in need in communities in the US and around the globe. We are #Greateras1!!

Thanks for helping me fulfill my birthday wish of fighting hunger and supporting those that need it most! #PalatePassionPurpose #FightHunger

Stop Talking! Start Doing!

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Going Home: Indiana Turns 200

Going Home: Indiana Turns 200

Back Home Again in IndianaWhoever said you can’t go home again (okay, it was Thomas Wolfe) didn’t make it to River Days and a hometown bicentennial. Because, well…Yes! You! Can! And it is worth every minute. That joint knows how to put on a party. Heaping helping of that Hoosier Hospitality! (Side bar: if you are here for a recipe, hold tight. Yummy meatloaf coming next post.)

Mt. Vernon, Indiana…the scene of many of my crimes. Turns out Mt. Vernon turned 200 at the same time as the great state of Indiana. Founded as McFadden’s Bluff nearly a decade before, the name changed in 1816 to Mt. Vernon as a nod to our founding father. Many states have a Mt. Vernon because of George; always the overachiever, my state has two. I’m from the one in Posey County, named for General Thomas Posey who grew up next to the original Mt. Vernon and was rumored to be George’s illegitimate son. It also has the distinction of being the last town in Indiana, located exactly where the Ohio and Wabash Rivers flow together on both the Kentucky and Illinois borders. The tiptoe of the State.

In honor of Indiana’s bicentennial, the state – the 19th to join the union – decided to throw an epic celebration starring an Olympic-style torch (the emblem on our flag) relay, crisscrossing 3200 miles and 92 counties over 5 weeks. The torch carried by Hoosiers (selected from a pool of many thousands) ranged from coaches to community leaders, elected officials to every day Joes…alive and in memory of those gone before…from infant to elder. Passing the flame from torch bearer to torch bearer, this beacon moved around the state via every imaginable mode of transport – in period costumes, on horseback, carnival ride, boat, old timey bicycles, Indy car (duh!), farm equipment, on foot, fire truck, skateboard, harness racehorse, ambulance, pub cruiser, and more….any mode symbolic of the history and heritage of Indiana.

The Torch

Creation of the 130 torches carried by the 2000 bearers was the result of collaboration between seven engineering programs at Purdue, who spec’d it for form, function, design and durability. Each torch, like the flag it resembled, had 19 stars: 13 for the colonies on top, 5 for the next states joining the Union around the middle, and one big fat one for Indiana at the base of the flame. Beside sourcing materials and fuel within the state and complying with codes in 92 counties, each torch had a selfie cam and Wi-Fi capabilities to sync to the caravan in tow, upload the images, and keep track of every bearer. Not on my watch!

Torch

I can’t tell you how exciting it was to watch my brother Rich carry the torch in honor and memory of our father Bill Keck …drum roll please, Mt. Vernon’s Citizen of the Millennium. Rich told me that when he heard about the Bicentennial Torch Relay and that they wanted the Torch Bearers to be community leaders, he thought it was too bad that Honest Bill, as we affectionately called our car dealer dad (Cheech & Chong, Yaasssss!), wasn’t alive to be recognized for his tireless efforts to make his community a better place to live. Then Rich found out that you could nominate someone posthumously: “I proudly carried the torch for my sisters, for myself, in memory of not only a great man, but a great dad. I think his favorite quote tells you everything about him: ‘I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.'” And that’s a REAL Abraham Lincoln quote.

The torch passed through our town on Day Three which was also 9/11. And, its arrival coincided with the town’s annual River Days festival. Pet Parade, Bands, Grill Offs, Smoke on the Ohio, Art, Symphony, Festival Parade and Fireworks. All rolled into one fat and happy weekend.  Ever since the historic band shell and Riverbend Park were restored, the town has been throwing the ultimate party each September. Lucky us that the two major events coincided on the calendar.

Pet Parade 1.0

They had me at pet parade. As a former winner for “best use of crepe paper in a bicycle tire”, I’m a huuuuuge fan.  Alas, times have changed – you neither need a pet nor be a child to participate.  Nine contestants and ten awards. Everyone was a winner! With culinary tendencies, I was partial to the kids who baked the state a birthday cake with 200 candles, accompanied by their dog who’d apparently been hitting the blue frosting, although the Grinch family with antler-clad pooch was pretty darn cute. I was mystified by the grown woman with the grocery cart tricked out like a frigate. When I looked inside – gasp, there were rats.  She screamed, “we’re Pi-rats” as loud as she could. Ahoy matey!

Pet Parade 2.0

And then there was street food, including a BBQ contest. These people take their pig seriously. I tried to talk to a few, but they were having none of the distraction. So I made a note to return for dinner, and moved on to the catfish and ice cream people. Many of the 40 some food booths were fundraisers for local churches and such.  I took my time and found myself wending my way through the tents and booths. People could not have been nicer. I’ve been gone too long for vendors to remember me, but they all remembered Dad.

River Runners BBQ

Second Ribs

Catfish and Ice Cream

We took a brief time out to visit Tin Man Brewing in nearby Evansville (sadly now closed – sniff sniff). While I was never really around after turning 21, my memories of the brewing tradition in Southern Indiana were that of the dismal watery Sterling Beer brewed locally. My, how times have changed! Tin Man Brewing has a righteous collection of home brews. Nestled in a former boarding house, Tin Man combines the feel of an old tavern and a modern tasting room. We had enough people drinking five-flavor samplers that I feel I can say with confidence that I had it all and declare it delicious.

Tin Man

Back in time for the big parade, we took it all in. Not to be outdone by my bro’s honor of carrying an official torch on Sunday, I did a BYOT.  Amazon Prime, Baby! I bought the cheesiest torch with batteries, a silk flame and LED lights to haul around all weekend. It turned out to be a great way to meet people. The torch was not arriving until Sunday at 11am, but mine was in da house starting Friday. I got a lot of “Is that the torch?” to which I would reply “It is A torch!” I mainly brought it for family photo opps – it was very clear that the official torch with its state police escort would wait for no one. And we needed a torch for the ubiquitous family photo opp on the William H. Keck bypass. Yup! Pops has a roadway named after him. 

Flood Stage

I had my fun walking around town and meeting people with the faux torch, taking selfies and texting images. Meet Joe from the hand-cranked ice cream shop. Or the guy from Life Below the Water who was traveling with a tankful of local river fish. Or the BBQ boys. They were just a few of the many who got torchy with me.

Ice Cream & Torch

Life Below The Water

BarBQ Boys and The Torch

Time for a final stroll through the booths and checking out the monstrous pork tenderloin sandwiches, corn on the cob, “Pieholes & Viddles”, and “Deep Fried Goodies”. So much cholesterol, so little time!

Good Enough to Eat

Fried Goodies

 If only I had known that Brains were a mere $5 – I would have loaded up long ago. We grabbed our grub and a blanket and settled in for the 40 piece Wolfgang Orchestra and Chorus, along with spectacular fireworks.   

Brains $5

River Days

The next morning on a near cloudless day the torch arrived on the steps of the beautiful county courthouse, right on time at 11am with near military precision. Following a moment to remember 9/11, the torch continued on its Sunday 124 mile journey, first in the hands of the former mayor high atop a fire truck that bore his name, a mile or so with Rich in a 1937 Ford Coupe “Rat Rod”,  and on to the lighting of the torch born by high school athletic director Leigh Ann Latshaw.

Mayor Higgins

Richard Keck & the 37 Ford Coupe: Torch Relay

Indiana's Bicentennial Torch Relay - Richard Keck & Leigh Ann Latshaw

And just like that, the flame moved on…heading north…leaving as quickly as it appeared.

Kudos to the State of Indiana for an amazingly well done and perfectly orchestrated relay, no doubt years in the making. #HoosierPride

WHK Bypass

All that was left to do was a roadside gathering by the Papa Bill Bypass. And just like the torch, a tradition passed to the next generation, as my brother and his three generations documented the day gathered by the side of the road, just like my Dad and his three had done before.  Going home is great indeed.

We Three

Photo credits: Keck Family, Mary Watson, and IndianaTorchRelay.com

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