Holiday Gifts for the Cook
It's the holiday season and time to find those perfect gifts for family and friends. If you have cooks on your list, I thought I'd share some of the items in my kitchen that I just can't live without. Note: I am not aligned with any vendor or store to endorse their products. These are just the items that I've bought for myself or received as gifts and found that I use them all the time. Enjoy!
By far the most important utensil in any kitchen is the wooden spoon. It can be used for anything. Sautéing vegetables, stirring soups, mixing ground meat, or folding chocolate chips into cookie dough. If I have to count, I have probably ten wooden spoons. All of varying lengths and shapes. Some I use for specific things like just for baking mixtures vs those I use while cooking. I have tried and do own some rubber spatulas and metal spoons. I find these just don't work as well or I fear they will interact negatively with what I'm cooking at high heat. When you shop for wooden spoons, look for ones that are pretty thick and feel really sturdy in your hand. I can't tell you how many wooden spoons I've snapped in half within a few weeks of using!
While in culinary school, I was introduced to silpats in my baking and pastry class. What a wonderful invention! These silicone mats are used like parchment paper while baking cookies, puff pastries, etc. and really help prevent burning on the bottom of your cookies and keep your cookies from sticking to the bottom on the pan. If you are buying for a baker, this is a must have.
I'm often asked what kinds of pans I use while cooking. I am a fan of stainless steel and not of non-stick. The next question I get is how do I keep the pans clean. My answer of having a can of Bar Keepers Friend on hand and realizing that my pans will never look like new doesn't always go over well. For those who want a pan that can do everything, that you can use on the stove top and in the oven without a lot of fuss, nothing beats a cast iron skillet. We received a handed down set of Lodge skillets and absolutely love them. You can sear a steak in them and then finish it in the oven or get that lovely golden sear on a piece of fish. And, you don't have as much work to clean up!
I love appliances. I have way too many on my countertop and in my kitchen cabinets. But, I find there's a purpose for all of them. If I had to pick my favorite or one that I use the most, it would be my stick blender. You've probably seen these around and wondered if they really worked as good as a regular blender or food processor (I know I did). The answer is yes and are much easier to use and clean. When you've made a batch of soup that needs to be blended, it's so much easier to leave the soup in the pan and blend there than have to ladle in batches to your blender. Even making something like hummus is easier to do in a mixing bowl than putting into your food processor.
I've included this topic to encourage everyone to use less plastic. I used to be pretty bad about how many plastic bags and saran wrap I would go through in a month. I've worked this year to remove plastic bags and saran wrap from our kitchen (we do still have a box or two for the times you absolutely need a disposable bag). I'll point to this article that highlights some of the reusable products out there to replace what you have. I am also replacing those plastic "reusable" containers with glass ones. If you have an eco-friendly cook, a set of these will be greatly appreciated!
This may sound a bit strange to give as a gift but the best thing you can give a cook is a gift card to their favorite grocery story, butcher, or farmers market. While having all of these gadgets and utensils are handy, the key thing all cooks need are the ingredients. Gifting the cost of making a favorite meal for friends or the ability to buy special ingredients to try something new is a wonderful thing and will definitely be a gift card that gets used!
The items above are great gifts for the cook on your list. But, maybe you have someone just getting started cooking or someone who needs to cook more because they are working on a change in diet/lifestyle or maybe you want to treat the cook on your list. For these, more challenging people on your list, consider giving the gift of a Personal Chef. For new cooks, a Personal Chef can help teach different preparation and cooking methods. For those making a change in their diet/lifestyle, a Personal Chef can create menus that meet the dietary needs and teach healthy ways to cook favorite dishes. And, for those who like to cook, a Personal Chef can be a treat not to cook. A dinner party at your home that you don't have to stress over can be a nice break. And, it allows you to spend more time with your guests than in the kitchen!
I hope this list gives you some ideas for the cooks on your holiday list. Happy Holidays!