These Are A Few of My Favorite Things… The Holiday Gift List

Are you still needing gift ideas? With the Chanukah just around the corner and Christmas right after that getting that perfect gift can feel daunting. Well, if you have a loved one who cooks or bakes this is the post that is going to help take some stress of this holiday season. 

Buying a gift for someone who takes their hobby seriously can be quite intimidating, unless you share that interest too, but too often we don’t. What do you do? Hopefully you turn to the many blogs, podcasts, and magazines out there to guide you.

This time of year I start seeing lots of these kinds of articles and it got me thinking: If I were to recommend a few of my favorite things, what would they be? I started looking around my kitchen and thought about the items that really make a difference. Best part is most of them are not that expensive and can even make great stocking stuffers or help you  get through all eight nights of Chanukah without breaking the bank.

Favorite Things (Bench Scrapers)

Bench Scrapers $5 – $10:

It doesn’t matter if the person you are buying for is a cook or a baker this is one of those things that is just as utilized as a knife is if not even more so. Whether you’re looking at bench scrapers, bowl scrapers, or the larger scraper that’s grater for scooping up lots of chopped items. These are a life saver in the kitchen.

  • The silicone one not only is flexible and light weight but the curved wedge is perfect for scraping wet or sticky contents out of any bowl. I tend to use mine mostly for scraping dough out of a bowl but and cook or baker would quickly find a use for it.
  • The basic bench scraper is the true workhorse of the kitchen. Not only is it great for scooping stuff up but it’s also great for tasks like cleaning their kitchen counters when there’s stuck on stuff, simply scrape it away, and since it’s a dull edge they don’t need to be worried about scratching their counters.
  • The Large Bench Scraper with Scoop Handle is my go to when I am doing a lot of chopping. Great for scooping up chopped nuts, chocolate, or dried fruits when I am baking or fo scooping up chopped fruits and veg when I am cooking this gets it from the cutting board to the bowl or pot quickly and easily without dulling the edge of my knives!

Favorite Things (Tumble Tivets)

Tovolo Tumble Trivets $7.18:

Everyone knows regardless if they cook or bake trivets are essential in the kitchen. They basically need them any time they’re taking something hot out of the oven or need to do something like sous vide on their kitchen counters. Bulky trivets don’t need to take up room in the kitchen. Instead these tumble trivets, that when stored take up no room at all, are fantastic because you can put them in any configuration to prop up large or small pots, pans, cookie sheets, platters and more and with their “jacks” like design they won’t roll. Also being make of silicone they grip both what they are holding up and the counter quite well! These might be the perfect stocking stuffer!

Favorite Things (Cookie Scoops)

Set of 3 Stainless Steel Trigger Scoops Under $10:

The trigger scoops tend to get more use in baking than in cooking but in either case is a handy tool. The large scoop is perfect for neatly filling muffin tins or even getting batter onto a waffle iron. The medium scoop bakes drop cookies a breeze. Quickly fill up a sheet tray and get uniform sizes without any more work than scoop and squeeze. The small one is maybe my personal favorite. I used to make the standard sized cookies but I have taken a liking to small cookies for all my cookie baking. Any of my recipes for cookies they baking time is based on this small scoop. The final cookie comes out about the size of a vanilla wafer. These are the perfect single bite cookies or two small bites.

Favorite Things (Salt Jar)

Salt Jar $16:

This salt jar is for the cook in your life. Every great cook knows that it’s all about “seasoning” a pinch of salt here and a dash of salt there. To do this having salt that is easy access is key. This simple classic design comes from Magnolia Market so if you know a cook that loves Joanna Gaines or Fixer Upper this would be an added bonus. If you want to kick it up a notch pick up a 1 pound box of Jacobson Pure Kosher Sea Salt for only $7.50. This salt is hand harvested off the Oregon coast and is something special to put into their new salt jar!

Favorite Things (Butter Dish)

Covered Butter Dish $19.95:

It doesn’t matter if I am cooking or baking a good butter dish is more than just for fancy dinner parties. Room temperature butter is key in a lot of baking and quite handy when cooking. What I love about Crate & Barrel’s Marin White Covered Butter Dish is that the soft white, hand antiqued, freefrom plate and extra wide shape doesn’t just look great on a table but it holds butter of all shapes and sizes. Most butter dishes are shaped to hold a typical stick of butter but serious cooks and bakers have personal preferences and some of those might be artisanal butters that often take more unusual shapes so this dish is better suited for whatever type of butter your cook or bakers loves.

Favorite Things (Bread Lame)

Bread Lame (Dough Scoring Tool $15.85:

This is for the bread baker in your life. Most bakers new to bread will try scoring their loaves with about anything they think is remotely sharp in the kitchen. However, the texture and stickiness of doughs makes this particularly difficult and require something ultra thin and razor sharp. This is where a bread lame comes into play. Since getting one making slashes in my bread has become quick, simple, and clean. Just advise the receiver of this gift that it’s to be handled with care as it’s ridiculously sharp!

Favorite Things (Onion Goggles)

Onion Goggles $19.95:

These might seem silly but ask anyone with sensitivity to onions and loves to cook this is a great gift! Onion Goggles come in a variety of colors and have a comfortable padding to prevent fogging over and the syn-propanethial-S-oxide out! I am one of those people who tears up bad when cutting onions so when I discovered these while watching an episode of Castle, I knew I had to check them out. Now, I couldn’t imagine working in the kitchen without them! Sure I look silly but I no longer have to go running from the kitchen while chopping onions!

Favorite Things (Benriner)

Benriner $38:

Lets face it, most of us aren’t super skilled with a knife. Without lots of training even the best home cooks can lament slicing and especially if it needs to be sliced thin. The benriner is a Japanese mandoline. I discovered these a few years back and love them. Mandoline’s can be pricey and bulky. They have stands, trays, and al sorts of do-dads but more times than not all you need it for is prefect, thin, and even slices. Then there’s trying to store it. This compact slicer can easily slip into any drawer and with a quick rinse after use it’s clean. It does come with additional blades for cutting things like fries but I find I use my mostly for making quick work of getting veggies all sliced up.

Now, if you want that WOW gift, here are my two recommendations:

Favorite Things (Fast Slo Pro)

#1 The Breville Fast Slow Pro $250:

The Breville Fast Slow Pro is a lot like the Insta-pot. I would love to do a fill write up for you with side by side comparison but unfortunately I don’t have access to an instapot to compare it to. Now, all that said let me tell you ultimately it doesn’t matter because this appliance is easy to use, does so much, and best of all it’s easy to clean. So what is it exactly? Well, it’s a pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, stock pot, and so much more. This is a total set it and forget it appliance.

When I discovered the joys of using a pressure cooker in the kitchen it was eye opening. Beans from dry to fully cooked and delicious in a matter of minutes, soups and stews with maximum flavor extraction, and stocks and broths like you wouldn’t believe. The problem was it had to be very carefully monitored. The flame of the stove was constantly being adjusted and I was chained to the kitchen. Then switching to the Fast Slow Pro I was able to be free of the kitchen. You put everything in, you close it up, you set it to what you’re doing stew, stock, beans whatever, set the time, and hit start. That’s it. It does all the work. I can go mow the lawn, relax and read a book, or heck, run to the grocery store because I forgot something all the while the pressure cooker is doing it’s thing.

When cooking rice I put in the rice, add the water, close it up, set it to rice and from start to finish I have perfectly fluffy white rice in 20 minutes! As a slow cooker it’s exactly the same, put everything in, choose the setting and time, and away you go.

So why Breville and not the instapot? Well, I would have to say customer service. Should anything every go wrong with it simply give them a call and they will do everything they can to get you back up and running. Although I have never had a problem with my Fast Slow Pro other appliances from them occasionally had issues and they even sent me a new one free of charge! So if you know someone who loves to cook this would definitely be a WOW gift!

Favorite Things (Joule)

#2 Joule $159:

Can something so little be maybe the most innovative tool to come to the kitchen since the invention of the stove or microwave? YES! If you don’t know about Joule you need to learn and if you have someone who loves to cook this is the ULTIMATE Christmas gift! Talk to anyone who has used it and they will agree this is the future of cooking. So what is Joule? Well, the simple answer is it’s an immersion circulator but that doesn’t really help does it?

The term you might have heard before and the person you know who loves to cook surely has heard is Sous Vide. Here’s the idea: Put Joule into a large pot of water (large enough to hold what you want to cook and deep enough to full submerge the item you’re cooking and the minimum water level for joule. With the use of an app on a smart phone connect to the Joule, set the temperature, and let it heat the water. It does this by sucking the water in through the bottom and out the slot on the side. This is circulating the water. Once the water is to temperature you take the meat you want to cook, place it in a ziplock bag or better yet a vacuum sealed bag submerge it in the water and cook it for the indicated time. This allows you to perfectly and accurately cook any meat every time. The app has guides for all types of meat, it has recipes, and it gives you great visual guides to know what to pick.

Once the timer goes off simply pull the bag out of the water, cut it open and finish the meat as desired. You can do anything from searing it in a hot pan, throwing it on a grill, or glazing it under the broiler in the oven and so much more. All you’re trying to do in the finishing step is color the meat as desired. It’s already fully cooked so you aren’t trying to cook it just give it a nice crust or char.

With the “Big Clamp” you can attach the Joule to just about anything heat safe and cook for larger crowds with ease! It’s hard to explain all the ways in which Joule would be the most awesome Christmas gift ever but let me tell you this, if someone gave me another one for Christmas I would be over the moon! If you still are unsure but intrigued head on over to Chefsteps.com and check out their video.

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