Friday, December 9, 2011

Top 10 Gifts for Seasonal Cooks

Green Cauliflower Tree Decorated with Bird and Ribbon
Romanesco Cauliflower Dressed for the Season
Seasons and available foods change, but some kitchen tools get used in all seasons, year after year. ‘Tis the season to be gifting, and I’ve come up with a list of 10 tools that seasonal cooks will appreciate and use year-round. I’ve received many of these as gifts myself. I invite you to comment and add your own favorites. And yes, if you click on a link and buy something (anything) at Amazon, I get a little referral fee, so I’ll be able to retire a little sooner and blog more. *Grin*

1. Classic 8-inch Chef Knife: By far the most useful knife in my kitchen. My parents (now deceased) bought me this knife years ago, and I have used it almost every day since. A Henckels knife will last a lifetime, it’s simply the best. I lived with a teenager who chipped mine once (only possible by hitting two knife blades together vigorously as he did), and I had it (professionally) reground as good as new.

2. Three-inch Paring Knife: This knife takes care of all sorts of peeling, paring, and small-scale kitchen tasks. I didn’t realize how useful it was until two different roommates, in two different households, tried to “borrow” it permanently. After that (in both cases) I hid it. Thankfully, I don’t have to do that anymore. My older sister gave me this one for Christmas, many years ago now.

3. Four-and-a-half-inch Utility Knife: The third knife in the trio takes care of everything in between, from light-duty chopping and slicing to scraping root veggies to cutting poultry off bones. My sister gave me this one too, insisting that the size, which seemed odd to me, would come in handy for a variety of uses. She was right.

4. Stainless Steel Measuring Cups: Wonderfully heavy-duty and I love being able to measure ¾ or 2/3 cup all at once. They look great and will last a lifetime because the handles are short and stout rather than thin and wimpy. I bought these with a gift certificate given to me as a wedding gift by coworkers at my day job.

5. Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons: Stylish and at the same time practical, these measure both wet and dry ingredients. Solid steel handles provide good leverage, unlike plastic handles. Also purchased with the wedding gift certificate from day job coworkers.

Or Stainless Steel Spice Measuring Spoons: The only problem with the round measuring spoons is that they don’t fit into all spice bottles, so recently I’ve been wanting to add some stainless spice measuring spoons to my kitchen. Their ingenious narrow profile scoops stuff out of the smallest bottles. I don't have these, in case anyone asks.

6. Immersion Blender: More powerful than a standard blender, less messy than a food processor, and more compact than either. Since my husband “birthday gifted” me last June, this has been my go-to tool for pureeing, blending, and whipping, and it’s never let me down. What’s not to like about easier, faster, and less cleanup?

7. Assorted-size Spoonula Set: When I first saw Rachael Ray using these, I thought they were silly. My husband, who loves any kind of gadget, bought a large one to try out. Surprisingly, this became one of my favorite tools, and I’ve since bought the smaller sizes. The very small size is great for scraping out small jars of honey, jam, etc.

8. Mixing Bowl Set: I have one OXO Good Grips mixing bowl and it’s nicely weighted and coated with non-slip surface on the bottom. As you can see from the link or the image below, each bowl has a convenient handle and pouring spout. Mine’s large and plain white, but I could use the smaller, lighter-weight sizes too, where additional weight would be particularly handy for mixing. Hint, hint!

Or Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl Set: The stainless steel variation has the added advantage of being dishwasher-friendly and being chill-able, if for example you wanted to make whipped cream on a hot day. Plus they look modern and cool.

9. Salad Spinner: My mom had the hand-cranked version of this back in the 1970s, to spin water off salad greens quickly and effectively. You can wash and dry lettuce for a salad you're making now, or prepare pre-washed lettuce leaves to store in the fridge for fast preparation later. I had a pull-cord version, which is no longer available, and when that bit the dust I tried several modern versions. OXO is the most solid and efficient, and requires the least amount of muscle and finesse to use.

10. Anyware 3-Quart Portable Stay-Hot-or-Cold-Dish: Regular readers have seen me use this to keep apricot-yam and baked cabbage-tomato casseroles hot or chocolate covered strawberries cold at potlucks. The ingenious gel pack can be either microwaved or frozen, and when put in the insulated carrier will hold your dish at temperature for up to 3 hours. The dish itself, made by Corning, is a convenient size for cooking anything from stuffed cabbage leaves to roast chicken parts to double batches of brownies. And it comes with a plastic lid so leftovers can be popped right into the fridge.

11. Now it's your turn! What gifts do you recommend for cooks and creators in the kitchen? 


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