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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 all purpose wine glass

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 on a wooden board

 

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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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 by Kevin Zraly, Mike DeSimone, Jeff Jenssen

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 all purpose wine glass

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: rows of flip lid jars being filled with a funnel, tags, twine

 

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.

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2018. All rights reserved.

 

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Spice Up Your Holidays: Give the Gift of Homemade Salt & Pepper Blends

Spice Up Your Holidays: Give the Gift of Homemade Salt & Pepper Blends

close up of the jar being filled with citrus salt

Salt & Pepper in da House

Seasonings Greetings! Just saying that reminds me of the Christmas card from years ago where I clipped measuring spoons to my lobes and stood among hip-high bags of spices in a market – caption: Seasonings Greetings. Cheesy? You betcha. But that’s the way I roll. And giving gifts that are edible is another way I roll. Be honest. What rivals something homemade? Maybeeeeeee….something that you can use up? I think so. This salt & pepper gift pairing does double duty as homemade and consumable, and it is a perfect stocking stuffer.  Or a gift exchange. Or a hostess gift. 

Citrus Salt Ingredients: maldon sea salt, orange, lemon, grapefruit with zester and fennel seeds

Citrus and Seeds

This salt blend benefits from a quick round of oven-drying citrus zest. Combining orange, lemon and grapefruit adds just the right amount of sweetness and acidity. And, the added fennel and celery seeds add a hint of fresh herbs, but provide a shelf life longer-lasting than fresh. 

Fennel seeds and citrus

Picking the Right Salt

I am a big fan of Maldon Sea Salt and use it for its flaky form as a finishing salt.  It’s delicate and thin, with crispy flakes. And great news! When I initially started making salts a few years ago (my maiden voyage in gift salts was a trio of this spiced citrus, along with kale-walnut and hazelnut-spice), I found a 3.3 pound tub of Maldon which had to be shipped from England, where the salt has been harvested along the coast since the early 1800s. Today that tub is available on Amazon. It makes using an uber high quality salt easily sourced and affordable for gift making, with plenty left over for personal use. Try it on anything that needs a sprinkle of salt – like chocolate espresso shortbread or salted caramels. 

Maldon sea salt in a lime green bowl

Zesting the Citrus Peel

When zesting the citrus to make the salt blend, I like to use a bar tool that makes long thin strips (use the section with the little holes, not the channel knife.) But you can also easily use a microplane which works well in removing only the outer peel of the citrus. The key is to avoid grating too deeply, thereby grabbing the white pith which adds unwanted bitterness.  

Mix all the salt ingredients and spread out on a parchment-lined sheet pan and pop in the oven. It should take about 20 minutes to dry out the zest, but check after 15 minutes and give the salt a stir. 

Spiced Citrus Salt drying from oven roast on parchment paper

From Zesting to Zesty

And what’s salt without pepper? Salt: sister from another mister. Pepper: brother from another mother. Salt & Pepper: we are fam-i-ly! This particular pepper blend was introduced to me by a dear friend. I made my own ratios so the end result is a bit different, but she was spot on in marrying cardamon and coriander with black pepper to get a blend with more zip than any ingredient could deliver on its own. Yahoo!

Pepper, Coriander, Cardamom on a wooden board with a jar in the background

Once the blends are assembled and the salt is fully cooled, the only thing left to do is put them in cute little spice jars, tied with a decorative label identifying the goods inside. I have taken these to a gift exchange, and this was the top sought after gift once the stealing began. Showing up with an armful of these salt & pepper gifts at any holiday party is sure to earn you the Best Guest tiara!! Enjoy!

Salt & Pepper Gifts; funnel in the salt jar with a red and white ball of twine

Print
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Filling the Spice Jars: rows of flip lid jars being filled with a funnel, tags, twine

Give the Gift of Homemade Salt and Pepper Blends


  • Author: Katy Keck
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 8 pairs (100ml jar) 1x

Description

Nothing is better than a handmade holiday gift. In my book, bonus points if it can be consumed and if it adds a little sumthin’ sumthin’ to my pantry. This spiced citrus salt and zesty pepper blend is my favorite spice combo! Salt & Pepper, you rock!!!


Ingredients

Scale

Spiced Citrus Salt

  • 3 cups flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
  • Zest of 3 oranges (I like the long strands of using a bar zester, but a microplane works too).
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • Zest of 2 grapefruits
  • 1 Tablespoon celery seed, ground in a spice grinder
  • 1 Tablespoon fennel seed, ground in a spice grinder

Zesty Pepper Blend

  • 1 cup ground black pepper
  • 1 cup coriander seeds
  • 1/2 cup cardamom seeds

Instructions

Make the Spiced Citrus Salt:

Preheat oven to 275oF.  Line sheet pan with parchment. 

Mix salt with citrus zests and ground seeds. Mix until well combined. Spread evenly on the parchment paper and bake until the zest is fully dehydrated, about 20 minutes.  Check after about 15 minutes and stir the salt, turning over the bottom which may still be a bit wet.  Once completely dried, remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Transfer to sterilized airtight containers. Stores well for at least 3 months.

Makes 4 cups and will fill 8 100ml (3.4 ounce) jars.

Make the Zesty Pepper Blend:

Grind each seed separately, in batches as needed, in a spice grinder, mini chopper or food processor. 

Mix all spices together.

Transfer to sterilized airtight containers. Stores indefinitely.

Makes 2 1/2 cups and will fill 8+ 100ml (3.4 ounce) jars.

Notes

For zesting citrus, I prefer the long strands from a bar zester versus the shorter zest from a microplane. However, I’ve been known to do a bit of both and combine.

  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Spices

close up of the jar being filled with citrus salt

Don’t forget the yumster English toffee that I wrote about last year. It, too, makes a wonderful holiday gift. Cookie Exchange ladies – brace yourselves. This is headed your way!

Toffee Ready To Go

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© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2017. All rights reserved.

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Best Gifts are Homemade: English Toffee aka Grandmother’s Butterscotch

Best Gifts are Homemade: English Toffee aka Grandmother’s Butterscotch

Toffee Ready To Go

It’s impossible for me to wrap my brain around the holidays without thinking about family and reflecting on memories from childhood. Especially when it comes to food. English toffee? Yaas!!! All those special meals and holiday traditions that started in the kitchen. Hells Yaas!!! I was lucky enough to have three amazing women (four, if you count Florence on whom they all relied) that each had their own special place in the kitchen. Mom read Gourmet magazine in the 60s and was the first of all my friend’s mothers to make spinach dip. In a bread bowl. Mic drop! She loved party-fied food and was always looking for that next something special that was sure to dazzle. Her mother – Gaga – was legend for fancy food. Crab bisque with a splash of sherry or Belgian waffles dusted with powdered sugar. To be fair, I mainly saw her at holidays and birthdays so my sampling may not be statistically valid and may show a bit of bias. But when it came to Christmas cooking, nobody beat Grandmother Keck (“don’t call me Gramma!!!”). She was well known in our small town and she shared her holiday baking with all. Her English toffee was the best in town. JMHO.

Actually, all her Christmas candy made her a rock star – date balls, divinity, chocolate salted-peanut clusters, apricot balls and what she called butterscotch. It was really toffee. The thing that stands out in my mind is that I don’t have a single written recipe of hers. I think she just really knew how to cook. I have recipes from the other three women, but not her. Yet I can trace many of the things I know how to make straight to her. She was nearly 70 when I was born (she’s the one on the right in this photo) and had had more than a few years to hone her kitchen skills. This photo is from my baptism which was on December 18….a few years ago. As the story goes, city water was out and the font was dry, so they sourced my eternal life spring from a church furnace. It really explains so much when you think about it.

Katy's Christening with All the Family

I spent a good bit of time cooking with Grandmother and usually came home and wrote it all down. I have to smile when I see in my handwriting a note on chess pies: don’t remove the pie from the oven when you set it back. Even then my computational brain was worried that turning the oven down might result in a period when the temperature was between the high temperature and the more moderate one and that would not be correct. Should I wait til it reaches the new temp? I understand that little girl’s thinking so well. Her baking skills were not so great – removing a pie mid-bake would be disastrous – but she asked the right questions. 

I had not made butterscotch in many decades when I made it three years ago. I didn’t even have to look for proportions because it was so clearly ingrained on my brain. I call for 14 Tablespoons of butter below but the way Grandmother told me: use two sticks of butter and take 1 Tablespoon off of each. Add 1 pound of brown sugar. Boom. Done. Never forgot it.

Butterscotch aka English Toffee

She too made it in long ribbons over rows of pecans. I have changed nothing.  I also love that she taught me hard crack candy using a cold water test. She didn’t have or need a candy thermometer. Just a glass of ice water in which you drizzle the candy and then test to make sure it cracks and crunches when you bite into it.  I remember going to others’ houses and having a gummy crumbly crystallized version of this. They had not taken the sugar far enough.  At 10, I knew the difference and there was no comparison to butterscotch done right. Might have been a little judgy, was a little judgy. But come on people, make it right!

The cold water test is always good to know in case you don’t have a thermometer or it’s not working right and needs recalibration.  As sugar cooks, the more the water is cooked out, the harder it will be.  Drizzling a teaspoon of the candy into cold water will result in increasingly harder textures as the cooking time lengthens.  Starting with “thread”, then passing through the “balls” (soft, firm, hard) and on to soft crack, a hard crack, the sixth stage, is reached at about 300oF. 

Rows of Pecans

It is best to be ready to pour when that moment ………more like 1/2 or even 1/4 moment…..comes, so in advance I lay out rows of pecans on wax paper on the counter. The second the candy hits hard crack, the color reddens a bit, it becomes very pourable and there is a whiff of char in the air.  Turn the heat off and move quickly.  When I pour, I walk down the kitchen island pouring on the row farthest away within reach, then reversing the pour on the next row, etc.  For this much toffee, I make 8 rows of pecans, each about 4 feet long. I start pouring on the fourth row back, then 3, 2, and 1. Then I walk around the island and repeat.

Rows of Toffee

The toffee will set immediately. Because of the amount of butter, it will peel right off the wax paper, breaking naturally every few pecans. I like to try for 3-4 nuts per piece.  Since the candy is in long strips, I was happy to pack my gifts in the cutest rectangular candy tins I found on Amazon. Rectangular works so much better than round tins.

Rectangular Tins

English Toffee with Pecans

  • 1 pound light brown sugar (you could also use dark brown, but the light brown is easier to track changes in color)
  • 14 Tablespoons butter, cut into 1 Tablespoon pieces
  • 4 cups of pecans, about 12 ounces

Cover your work surface with wax paper and lay out the pecans in rows, about one inch apart.  I got 8 rows, each about 4 feet long.

Pecans in Waiting

In a large non-stick sauté pan, melt the butter with the brown sugar and stir until combined. This pan and your spoon (no plastic spoons or rubber scrapers) will be the next 30 minutes of your life. Relax. It’s kind of Zen. For the first 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stir casually as the butter and sugar melt. It will likely look like there is too much butter at that stage. The butter will not entirely incorporate.

Once combined, turn the heat down to medium and stir constantly.  Assuming you are not at altitude* (you are on your own there, but you are probably used to compensations), practice your wax on/wax off stirring technique.  Not much will happen for 20 minutes, but don’t walk away. Keep stirring. It will start to bubble and look kind of gritty, and it will be a bit stiff. 

Not Hard Crack

Do as I say, not as I do. This spoon didn’t make it any further because I realized the sugar was about to get way too hot. Only use metal or wooden spoons.

Stir on. Between 20 and 25 minutes, it will start to get much more liquid and very shiny. You are getting close. Start cold water testing (see above) after 15 minutes, just so you know what you are dealing with.  I made this twice yesterday and both times the magic happened right at 28 minutes (not including that first 5 minutes). That is when it turned reddish, I got a cold water hard crack, it became very liquid and easy to pour, and it fell in ribbons off the spoon. Right then exactly, I also got a whiff of char. If you are using a candy thermometer this will be about 300oF. Here’s more info on temperatures and candy stages.

When you are getting toward a hard crack in your cold water test, it is time for diligence.  And once you get a whiff of char, turn off the heat and move the pan ASAP.  Remember the pan is hot so this is still cooking. Pour quickly using the technique I outlined above.

Even if you miss a few nuts or your pouring is uneven, no one will know once it is broken into pieces.  I try to get every last bit, just pouring the last dribs and drabs in a puddle and perhaps studding with a few more nuts on top.

Filled 6 tins

*Julia Child side bar note: Once I watched the grand lady make a caramel in Aspen at Food & Wine.  She wasn’t prepared for high altitude, but quickly realized the liquid was cooking off too quickly and at a lower than expected temperature.  It was a surprise, but she was unflappable. She grabbed a nearby bottle of rum – the nearest liquid – and muttered, “Well then, I have added some rum, probably not enough. But, I need some for me, too.”

Grandmother Keck's Butterscotch

Jingle Bells!

This post contains affiliate links.  For more of my must-have faves, check out my shop.

© Copyright: KatyKeck.com 2016. All rights reserved.

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