My husband and I do not exchange gifts on holidays that normally demand gifts. Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Anniversaries, Christmas… no gifts change hands between us.
WAIT! Before you call the marriage counselor, let me explain.
We mutually agree that giving gifts is fun, and that giving gifts on holidays is less fun. When I come up with something great for my husband, I seriously hate having to wait or hide it until an appropriate holiday. But if I don’t wait and give it as a spur-of-the-moment gift, what if I can’t come up with something equally as good on the next holiday? But if I do wait and don’t give it to him right away, I’m robbing him of the enjoyment of the gift for who-knows-how-many months! Ach! What do I do?
Answer: Give gifts whenever we want, and usually not on holidays.
Now, I realize this does not work for many people, and even for me it only works with my husband; everyone else in my life gets appropriately timed and wrapped gifts on the designated holidays.
With 43 days left, many of us are focused in on The Christmas List. Absolutely, Christmas does not live or die by the presence or absence of the Perfect Pile of Packages, but a great gift is a great way to give love to those close to you. In the spirit of possibly helping you stock your Christmas List with wise buys and less stress, I’m going to offer up a few lists of my favorite things, and we’re starting in the kitchen.
It really, really annoys me when an advertisement talks to me about something “I never knew I needed.” If I actually needed it, I’m pretty sure I’d know about it. Well, maybe I’m not as smart as I think I am, because when it comes to kitchen items, there is a lot I never knew I needed until I stumbled upon it. These are my favorite must-haves for a home kitchen that I wish I had known about a lot sooner.
Gift Idea List for The Home Chef
One Super Sharp Amazing Knife
It turns out that my inability to chop herbs, onions, and just about anything else like a professional was due to more than a lack of knife skills and a genetic disposition towards clumsiness; it was due to a lack of a decent knife. A sharp, balanced knife takes meal prep from slow and frustrating to quick(er) and satisfying, and you don’t have to spend a fortune or amass a collection – one good chef’s knife is all you need to get excited about prep in the kitchen. (Well, it’s all I need, but that may or may not be normal.) Sure, you could get a Wusthof for $300 or $400 dollars, but we’re talking home chefs here. This Victorinox Fibrox Chef’s Knife came recommended to me and I love it. It’s only about $25 and has held up beautifully for more than five years of heavy use almost every day.
One Super Amazing Knife Sharpener
lie exaggerate. Even the best knives get duller with use, so there’s no point in having a good knife without a knife sharpener. This AccuSharp is easy to use, inexpensive, and works great for a quick sharpening job, but it’s missing from any pictures because it seems to have walked out of my kitchen (good kitchen tools have a tendency to do that now and then). This would make a great stocking stuffer.
A Zesty Zester
This is one of those things that I absolutely cannot believe I didn’t know about sooner. I feel like I owe restitution to all the citrus fruit I’ve ever zested with a plane old small-hole grater. And it’s handy for much more than zest! It makes quick work of garlic and ginger root (in case you’re currently obsessed with Indian and Asian recipes, like me).
Zesters can be found in a wide range of prices, but mine was a free gift that came with a magazine subscription and it has held up just fine. This Microplane is about $10 and has a handle and a cover – just about all you need. This would also slip into a stocking quite nicely.
An Instant Read
Food Psychic Thermometer
I use this for everything from meats to custards to bread. It takes out the guesswork (and the accompanying stress) of many dishes and, most importantly, eliminates OCB (Overcooked Chicken Breasts), those tough, dry, infinitely chewy bane of the home kitchen. If you’re looking to spend almost $100, the Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen is well worth the money, but for $25 this ThermoWorks version is almost as good. If you happened to own both of those at some point, and they were destroyed by curious children and being crushed in an overstuffed drawer, respectively, then any old instant read from the department store is certainly better than nothing. Stocking? Yeppers.
Le Creuset… Anything
“Le Creuset, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Your beautiful hues and heavy construction go from stove top to oven to table with ease. Your heat conduction and easy cleanup never, ever fail to please.”
I could go on like this, but I’m sure you don’t want me to. The bottom line is that Le Creuset is seriously expensive, but worth every single penny you put into it. This is cookware that will serve you well your entire life, and maybe also the lives of your children and grandchildren. It produces superior results, consistently. I’m going to continue gushing until someone stops me – these pots make excellent recipes even better, and that’s the whole point, right? I love my French Oven, and eventually I want to have my whole kitchen stocked with Le Creuset and almost nothing else, which will be after I win the lottery, which will be after I start playing the lottery, which will be never.
What if the chef in your house already has all these essentials? Try some unique consumables!
I admit, this one is weird, but I would be doing a little happy dance if I found a can of Muir Glen tomatoes in the toe of my stocking.
It’s winter, and the “fresh” tomatoes in the grocery stores where I live are pale and lackluster and very near flavorless. So I reach for canned tomatoes for a lot of dishes, and Muir Glen tomatoes make all the other cans of tomatoes in my cupboard run and hide in a corner and try to color their labels to look more like Muir Glen. The cooking enthusiast in your life might look at you sideways at first when they unwarp a case of tomatoes, but trust me, they’ll be thanking you once they’ve tried them.
Vanilla + Vodka
If you want to please (and impress) a baker in your life, put together some homemade vanilla extract! It’s super easy; you basically just split a couple vanilla beans, put them in a glass jar, and top them off with vodka. Let them sit for a couple months, swirl them around once in a while, and you have a stock of powerful vanilla extract that never expires! Your gift recipient can simply top off the jar with vodka now and then to keep an endless supply. I also stuff in the shells of any vanilla beans which have been relieved of their caviar for special recipes, just to keep it potent. My personal stash is in a poor old jam jar on which I made a half-hearted attempt to remove the old label. Don’t be like me. Follow this recipe from Joy The Baker and put a fancy ribbon or label on a nice mason jar.
That’s my kitchen list. I hope it helps you and the chef in your life leave happier Christmas morning!