Popping in this Christmas morn with a parade of gingerbread houses to thank you for your loyal following. Hard to believe I have just passed four years of this journey. Thanks for coming along for the ride. My Christmas wish is that you will get 5 friends to subscribe! What’s yours?
I’m sending you a tiny, heavily friend-based, round up of some fabulous gingerbread houses that are making the cyber rounds. Two I spied online, but the rest are made by dear friends and colleagues. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Mid-Century Modern Gingerbread House
Made for charity by my Palm Springs (and former NYC) friend and stylist to the stars Vincent Beckley. I particularly love the lifesaver fence on the left!
Good Cook Cookie Cutter Village Gingerbread Houses
Architect Cindie Flannigan for the Denise Vivaldo Group.
The White House in Gingerbread
My friend Bill Yosses (who just opened Palais by Perfect Pie in NYC) as the Obama’s pastry chef around the time that Bo appeared at 1600 Pennsylvania.
Photo by Susan Walsh for the AP
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater
Architect – FLW; Builder – Melodie Dearden.
Parker Meridian’s Gingerbread Competition
This New York hotel has a competition every year to raise funds for charity. $1 a vote. Vote early. Vote often! This was a couple years ago when the hurricane knocked down a crane across the street – hurricrane? Well, this is Candy Crane! How funny that it is a gingerbread construction site! Plus old Abe, all bundled up.
Indiana University (or Leesa & David U)
Made by my friend Leesa Wilson Goldmuntz, complete with Theta house and favorite pub
Something a Little Campy
Retro Camper by Sugar and Cloth
Would that I could, but my gingerbread skills are pretty much limited to kits and kids. My jam is collecting the most bizarre food ornaments. So settle in by the fire, and check out this video of my tree with this year’s selection from my food ornament stash, along with 2 or 3 vintage family treasures. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays….with deep gratitude for your support!
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?
I hope you are all cozied up by the fire and in full view of the tree on this fine morning! Me? I gotta get a move on in the kitchen. People are comin’!! What’s that you ask? Did Santa come last night? He did! He stopped by my house long enough to fire up the grill and pop a cold one. Santa is a hungry fella! And then, just as quickly as he arrived, he was off again to spread joy and seasonings’ greetings to all the good little boys and girls.
Seasonings’ Greetings with Gratitude!
I want you to know how grateful I am for your support and for being a loyal follower. I have much to celebrate, thanks to you. I send my love, warm appetizers, and cold bubbly. From my kitchen to yours, Seasonings’ Greetings!
And while we’re being hopeful, how about some Peas on Earth? Wishing you a joyous holiday with family and friends, and peas & prosperity in the days ahead.
I am here to the rescue. Relax! I got you covered. Not just any old Prosecco cocktail, but Santa’s Sparkler here to save the day. You have got to be anxiously running down that list and back up, checking it once and checking it twice!! Sound familiar? Tree trimmed?
Check. Stockings hung? Check. Then why do I feel like this?
Can’t quite get this magic all in sync! I feel like a monkey handing out suckers. Okay, not really but this photo is too good to waste. Wait. Does that monkey carry a Gucci handbag?
You haven’t heard of Santa’s Sparkler before? Possibly because I just made that name up. I was going to go with Santa Sipper but that seemed questionable and Santa’s Helper seemed enabling. Sparkler because it’s got a little bubbly, but then I dose it with something stronger, and a couple of aperitifs to boot. I’m just here for the aromatics. I know not all of you are drinkers and I appreciate that, so please enjoy the random photos and see how many reflections of me and my cell phone you can find in them. #onvacation And while you take a gander at the photos, look at the special ornament in the top photo mixed in and among the flutes. Anybody? That is a Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fundraising ornament from their series of Broadway Legends from some years back. That is Angela Lansbury in her 1966 version of Mame, the Miss in the Moon. See the trumpet against her leg? So cool!
Holidays are stressful enough, and I wanted to bring you a little cheer before you throw the wrench at your beautiful tree when the wheels literally fall off the bike you’re assembling. We’ve all been there. Take a deep breath, take a sip, and double down on getting the job done.
I like to think of this Prosecco cocktail as the UN of holiday cocktails. A regular Aperol Spritz makes total sense – everything is Italian. And TBH I photographed just that some months ago to bring it to you, but by the time I got to December I felt it wasn’t enough for you, my people. I needed to zhuzh it up a bit. Enter the multi-cultural line up of bevvies. I am normally a bit opposed to cross cultural-ing food, but I saw a drink like this on a menu and it made me want to tinker with the classic Aperol Spritz. I wanted something to balance the bitter of Aperol, and Lillet sprung to mind. Both are orange-based, but the flavors vary pretty significantly.
Lillet (I’m using Blanc which is a little yellowish) is made near Bordeaux, France (since 1872) and is a maceration of sweet and bitter oranges, quinine (adds a bit of bitterness, but overall this is more floral and citrus-y), and barks. The fruits start their maceration in alcohol, and once the key flavors are extracted, they are pressed and mixed with wine, then aged in oak barrels.
Aperol is of course Italian, from Padua, and that is a country with a fine appreciation for bitter – a far cry from the sacharin-y sweet palate we Americans favor. (I do not resemble that remark.) Aperol is just about to celebrate its 100th birthday, and its secret formula is unchanged since two brothers took over the biz from their father and created this aperitif. It too uses sweet and bitter oranges, but it also includes flowers, rhubarb, roots, and herbs in the recipe. Taste the two side by side and you will find they make a real cute couple.
Santa’s Sparkler – a twist on the classic Prosecco Cocktail, Aperol Spritz
Think of this Prosecco cocktail as the UN of holiday cocktails – Italy meets France meets Iceland. The pomegranate and rosemary add a holiday vibe, but it’s festive and bubbly enough to drink all year round.
Vodka, I prefer Reyka or Ketel One
Prosecco or Sparkling Wine
Measurements by the glass:
2 Tablespoons Vodka
2 teaspoons Aperol
1 teaspoon Lillet Blanc
5 ounces Prosecco or Sparkling Wine
Measurements using one bottle of Prosecco:
5 ounces Vodka
3 Tablespoons Aperol
1 1/2 Tablespoons Lillet Blanc
1 750-ml bottle Prosecco or Sparkling Wine
If making by the glass, add one ice cube to a champagne flute. Add the vodka, Aperol, and Lillet Blanc to the flute and swizzle until chilled. I like to leave the cube in, but remove if you prefer. Top with Prosecco.
If making a pitcher, add the vodka, Aperol, and Lillet Blanc to a martini shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into the pitcher and top with Prosecco.
Garnish with orange slices, pomegranates and rosemary sprigs.
For the orange slices, slice as thinly as you can and then cut each slice in half, then the halves into three wedges, making sure that each is small enough to fit in a flute. I love to use Cara Cara oranges or Blood Oranges if they are in season…like now!
Making quantity: If I am making this for a party, I make enough of the vodka/Aperol/Lillet mixture for the number of bottles I plan to serve and keep it chilled. Then when I open a new bottle of Prosecco, I add just under a cup (7 ounces) of the mixture per bottle of bubbles.
Prep Time:5 minutes
Keywords: Prosecco cocktail
Hope you enjoy your holidays – responsibly – and find a little cheer in Santa’s Sparklers! And you might still be able to squeak in some Amazon orders from my Cook’s Best Gift Guide, if you click fast! I know for a fact you can make those charitable donations up to the very last minute.
Counting down the last five days of the sixth year of Facebook ornament “advent calendar”. If you haven’t seen it, please take a gander. Self-proclaimed world’s largest private food ornament collection!
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.