Looking for that great Holiday Gift?

September 16, 2012 0 Comments

Looking for that great Holiday Gift?

Now that it’s holiday time, I need a wheelbarrow and a crow bar every time I visit my mailbox. The box is so jammed up with holiday catalogs; I can barely get them out. What’s going on with these catalog companies? It seems they send me the same catalog with a different cover every week. Sometimes I get two or three of the same one. Now I don’t mind looking through cooking catalogs but give me a break..ONE a quarter will do. I’ll settle for one a month.

Anyway, it’s that time of year when I like to look through my stack of cooking catalogs to find the latest gadgets and utensils to add to my Christmas list. I try to make it easier for my wife to shop for me than my two and four year old daughters. Not that hard a task. This list is by no means complete. There are so many great items on the market that make great gift ideas for any home chef. I just wanted to share with you a few of my favorites and a few you might want to stay away from.

I’ve broken down the list into 3 categories:

  1. Less expensive gadgets that are great gift ideas and must haves in your kitchen. Some of these make great stocking stuffers.
  2. More expensive items that would be nice to have in your kitchen.
  3. Gadgets that you want in your kitchen only if you have lots of extra cash lying around and tons of storage space. Thumbs Down

Category One – less expensive items that are a must.

Tongs – I purchased my first pair of kitchen tongs (not to be confused with those extra long barbecue tongs) in a kitchen supply shop. They only cost me about $8.00 but are one of the most utilized utensils in my kitchen. Great for sautéing, transferring ingredients to hot pots & pans, plating meals, and any other chore that may require putting your fingers in harms way. They’re also great for keeping a beat when cooking and listening to loud music.

Slotted Spoon – I have an inexpensive industrial plastic slotted spoon that won’t scratch any of my nonstick pan surfaces, but I have to admit those stainless steel ones sure look good. I purchased my plastic slotted spoon at the same place I purchase my tongs but they are available in all the catalogs and Wall Mart type stores. This is an item you don’t have to spend a lot of money on, but will get a lot of use out of.·

Measuring Cups and Spoons – Spend the extra bucks and purchase stainless steel rather than buying plastic or those cheap tin ones. It makes no difference in how they work; I just like the feel of the heavier ones. These are tools you will use a lot and have forever so why not get the best you can afford.

Glass Measuring Cups – I’m not sure if there is a kitchen out there that doesn’t have a glass measuring cup but if not, make sure it is microwave safe and heat -resistant.

Cheese Grater – I own several cheese graders including a battery powered one that belongs in Category Three. My favorite was the Mouli metal one with auxiliary drums for different grades, but lately I’ve been using my plastic Zyliss. Both are great.

Category Two – more expensive but worth having around.

Hand Blender – This is one of my all time favorite gadgets. You can use it to puree soups, emulsify salad dressings, and blend frappes. Some of the newer models will let you chip ice, mince vegetables and even knead dough. Before I owned a hand blender, I remember making a mess whenever I needed to transfer soup to my food processor to puree. Great gift item and a must have.

Italian Tomato Press – I just purchased one of these from Williams Sonoma for $25.00 this fall at the end of tomato season to make sauce for the winter. I first saw this acrylic press that attaches to the counter by suction a couple of years ago but for some odd reason, nobody seemed to have any in stock. This is an essential tool for separating pulp from skin and seeds when making basic tomato sauce and salsas.

Food Processor – More expensive than most of my kitchen tools, but how could I live without it. It is an essential piece of equipment for any serious cook. This is another one of those items that you will have for a long, long time. If too expensive, perhaps you can find a used one at a garage sale or at one of those on line auction houses.

Electric Knife Sharpener – A must for those of us who don’t have the time or desire to sharpen our knives with a stone. I’ll leave that to the pros and our local elk hunters. If you own at least one good knife and I hope you do, you will want to keep it sharp. Otherwise, what’s the use of having a good knife? This is one of those tools that will save you a lot of time and there’s nothing like slicing and dicing with a sharp knife. Just be careful to warn your mate after you sharpen your knives.

Category Three · Gadgets that you want in your kitchen only if you have lots of extra cash lying around and tons of storage space.

Battery Powered Anything – I confess. I own a battery powered Cheese Grater. I bought it when I was young and foolish and didn’t know any better. It’s been sitting in one of my cabinets for so long that I don’t even know where it is anymore. I almost owned a battery powered Pepper Mill with attached utility light for those occasions when you might need to grind some pepper in total darkness but I got married and came to my senses. These are great gift items for the cook who has every kitchen gadget available in Chef’s Catalog but please think twice when purchasing any battery operated kitchen gadget. And remember batteries are never included.

(Exceptions – if you have any kind of arthritis, injury or disability that prevents you from using hand tools, these are great tools for you to own.)

George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine – need I say more!

Bonjour Salad Chef – This handy $30.00 gizmo features an “emulsification disc” to perfectly blend ingredients to create effortless salad dressings. Save your money and purchase a Hand Blender (see above) that does the same thing and much more.

Instant Marinater – For $25 bucks you can be the proud owner of this fascinating device. Just place some meat in the “Instant Marinater”, then vacuum out the air that “opens the meat’s pores and fibers so that the marinade is quickly absorbed”. Haven’t they ever heard of zip lock bags and some good old fashion mouth suction? A heck of a lot cheaper and takes up less cabinet space!

Handheld Electric Can Opener – I’ve seen smaller power saws at Home Depot. For only $29.99, on sale from $50.00 in Chef’s catalog (a good source for kitchen equipment by the way) this patented can opener “uncrimps” the lid leaving no metal shavings. I’m now wondering how my $8.56 hand powered can opener opens cans and if I need to worry if I’m getting too many trace minerals in my diet. Seriously folks, if you are consuming that many canned food items that you need a power tool to open them, I can only say to you, “Try eating more fresh fruits and vegetables”

(Exceptions – if you have any kind of arthritis, injury or disability that prevents you from using hand tools, these are great tools for you to own.)

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