2016 Holiday Gift Guide for the Home Cook
Carefully selected ingredients are what make great food. However, I believe it isn’t just about the ingredients; it’s about everything that creates a meal – from the tools used to prepare the ingredients to the homely pans where the food is cooked and the beautiful plates it is being served on. Kevin and I do not own a whole lot of kitchen tools, pots, pans and serveware. We have a small selection of cherished cookware, bakeware and other kitchenware that allow us to turn our ingredients into delicious meals.
This year I have decided to put up a list of things that we own or would like to own in the near future. The holiday season is the time of the year that we tend to stock up on any kitchen ware that we need as a lot of products are on offers with interesting deals. Whether you are gifting yourself something nice this holiday or you need some gift ideas for your food or cooking enthusiast friend, I hope this list can provide you with some inspiration. You may still be able to get some of your orders in time before Christmas with Amazon’s 2-day shipping but if not, you may still be able to catch a good deal on Boxing Day.
2016 Holiday Gift Guide for the Home Cook
I love stainless steel for its durability. I have a set of round containers as well as a couple of rectangular ones that are perfect for storing leftover food in the fridge or freezer. When Kevin and I used to work in an office, these containers carried our lunches with no leakage. Since they are made of metal, they cannot be put into the microwave. But they are durable, non-toxic, BPA free, lightweight and well-built. We simply love them.
Glass containers are great for storing food too although they are a little heavier and will obviously break if they fall. Nevertheless, they do not stain and go in the oven and microwave if you need them for that purpose. I no longer own a microwave and try to reheat food using alternate methods. But if you do need to use a microwave, I suggest not placing the lids in there. They can go a little out of shape sometimes. I’d usually use a plate or paper towel to cover my food. I’ve very often baked individual lasagna portions to take to work the next day, much to the envy of my colleagues.
3. Spice Jars
My spice cabinet is an ever-growing collection. I usually buy spices in larger packets and refill my small jars for everyday use. Over the years I’ve recycled my empty glass jars for that purpose. But recently I stumbled upon this nifty set of 12 jars that come with a rack that will look great on the counter top or fit neatly in a cupboard. They would make a great hostess gift too. This set of 6 stainless steel ones with side panel available in the Canadian Amazon store is quite nice too; they come with 3 sizes of shaker holes from fine to coarse.
Kitchen Tools and Utensils
I used to own one of these (in the 13-inch diameter size) while I was living in Dublin. These bowls are made to last a life time and they are the kind of things that get passed down through generations. Sadly, I had to leave it behind when I moved to Canada. During the time I owned it, it was my favourite mixing bowl. These bowls come in different sizes to suit different needs. Mine was 13 inches in diameter and provided ample space for mixing and kneading bread dough, cake batter, pie crust and other pastry projects. What I really like about the Mason mixing bowl is that it does not move around, especially when kneading, and yet it is light enough to lift with one hand.
Also, it works great for serving drinks over the holiday season like this tamarind lemonade mocktail, punch and other mixes. I’ve even used it to make my own homemade kombucha a few times.
We have often been asked what knives we use. We have a set of 5 budget-friendly Japanese knives that we have been using for about two years now. If you are looking for high-end knives that will last a lifetime, then this set may not be for you. The handle is painted plastic (not wood) and the paint starts to chip off after a while. We have scrubbed the paint off a couple of them already. However, we are happy with them so far. For the budget we had at the time that we bought them, we cannot complain. They do a pretty good job and look good (you might have seen them in action in our videos). We like the size and different types of knives in this set. We use all of them for different purposes. If you can care for them, they will probably last a few years. They need a little sharpening from time to time.
Durable and long term cost effective, these stainless steel straws are a pleasure to drink with. They don’t contribute to plastic waste and are non-toxic. I simply love them. They are slightly angled which make them easy to sip from. They are great for any drinks and are sure to impress your guests. The cleaning brush that come with the set is really good. It bends around the curve and removes all debris inside. My tip would be to rinse them with soapy water right after using them. They are much easier to clean in this way. No second thoughts, they are a worthwhile investment. Buy them from the US Amazon store or the Canadian one.
I’ve had this blender for over two years now and I have never had any issues with it. I use it everyday for blending anything from smoothies, making plant-based milk to making chutneys and even coconut flour. It is not an ultra high speed as other high end brands but it does the job for me. If you are looking for a very smooth texture and ultra fine coconut flour for example, this blender may not be for you. But if you are on a budget and want something durable and reliable for everyday use, then I do recommend it.
In brief, I love the Better Brighter Ideas Ultra Slim Food Scale for these reasons:
- It is easy to clean; just wipe the tempered glass.
- It is flat and does not take up much space in a small kitchen (like mine).
- The BBI can measure grams, ounces, fluid ounces and millilitres.
- The tare function also allows the scale to be set to zero with the container on it so only the food can be measured.
- The display has a light which makes the readings clear to see. I love this feature!
The one feature that the BBI is missing though is a little hole at the back for easy wall mounting. I find this quite handy as I own another scale (in the ThinkKitchen brand, with a tomato design) hanging to a hook on the wall — pretty neat way to avoid counter space clutter. But the BBI’s slim design allows it to be stored either vertically or horizontally in a drawer or cupboard. I usually rest mine vertically like a cookbook on my kitchen shelf.
After all what is more important about a scale is the accuracy of measurements. After testing the BBI scale several times I can say that it has been accurate every time.
One of the most interesting feature of the Hamilton Beach TruCount Coffee Maker is the integrated scale that automatically measures the amount of coffee added to the basket. This yields a cup of coffee of consistent strength each time. You just need to adjust the amount of ground coffee as per your taste. We’ve been using this unit for a few weeks so far and we quite like it. We are not heavy coffee drinkers. We are more tea lovers. However, we do brew an occasional cup of coffee. Besides, we decided to give it a go and brew some tea in it. It was great (if you give the unit a cleanse by brewing plain water 1-2 times to remove the coffee flavour). We will most probably more often be brewing tea in this than coffee since we go through our day with 3-4 cups each.
The carafe can hold up to 12 cups of coffee and has a mess-free spout. So that is definitely great if you need to serve a crowd during the holiday season. If you need to brew just a few cups, there is a special setting for 1 to 4 cups that brews a small batch to the same taste quality as the full carafe of 12 cups. Another great feature is that this coffee maker is programmable up to 24 hours in advance. Also, if you need to pour yourself a cuppa while it is brewing, the auto pause feature allows you to remove the carafe and pour a cup before the brewing cycle is complete.
My only small concern is the temperature of the brew which is just right if you are having black coffee or tea. But when adding cold milk in, it is not as hot as I would usually like my tea or coffee to be.
We were sent the TruCount Coffee Maker by Hamilton Beach for a review. We were not compensated monetarily or otherwise and were under no obligation to publish our review itself or feature the product. We quite liked the product and thought of sharing our experience with you. We only share experiences like these if we enjoy a product. Not every product sent to us are featured or mentioned on the blog.
Cookware and Bakeware
I was somewhat hesitant to replace my worn out non-stick crepe pan for a cast iron griddle but I am so glad I did. Once you get used to cast iron pans, you wonder why you ever resorted to non-stick ones. You do need a little oil to cook in them, but if kept well seasoned, a small amount is sufficient. I find coconut oil to work very well with cast iron pans in general. We use this griddle mainly for crepes, pancakes and flatbreads.
You can find it in the Amazon US store or Canadian store.
We’ve owned this one much longer than the skillet above and I must admit, it is one of the best investment we’ve made in kitchen pans. Since this was our first cast iron pan, we went through a bit of a learning curve with it until we figured out what works and what doesn’t. Rule number one is to never wash it with soap unless you are re-seasoning it from scratch. We use coarse (or fine) sea salt with a dish cloth or sponge to clean it. Then heat it up to dry it. Never let it to air dry or it will rust. We totally recommend a cast iron skillet. We do everything from frying to baking, pies and stews or curries. Find it in the Amazon US store or the Canadian one.
This book offers a natural approach to healing, practical advice and home remedies for common ailments to more complex ones including both physical and emotional. I have a lot of interest in natural healing with herbs, teas, spices and other natural ingredients. This book has proven to be a handy guide with a lot of the tips and knowledge that I have put into practice with excellent results. While not all recipes or tips provided in this book are specifically vegan, most of it are more than useful. I have adapted some for myself to fit into a vegan lifestyle. It is a great book for anyone who wishes to take a more natural approach to healing and maintaining a healthy body and mind. A more in depth review of this book will be coming soon on the blog. You can buy this book in the US Amazon store or the Canadian one.
I incorporate some ayurvedic principles in a lot of my recipes and this results in dishes that are not only tasty but also very healing. I have found this book to be particularly helpful and it is an excellent reference that provides strategies tailored to one’s personal needs based on the individual’s body type, something that is sometimes overlooked with many other types of diets out there. One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of the herbs are mentioned in their Hindi names. So, you might need to google them, like I did, to find out what they are. Some of these herbs and spices may not be available everywhere but a lot of the information provided in this book is really quite useful and informative. The love with which the author has written this book does show through. Just like the Natural Antibiotics book above, not all remedies in this book are vegan but most are or can be adapted to fit into a vegan lifestyle. Find this book in the US Amazon store or the Canadian Amazon store.
For a change from the usual recipe post, I hope you find this post helpful. Wish you all a very happy holiday season.