As much as gift giving is a joyful endeavor, it can at times be full of stress, uncertainty and “oh, geez, what the heck do I get for this one?!?” I love to think about what I can give to someone that will make their day a little brighter or easier or blingy-er (?). I especially like it if they enjoy their time in the kitchen, since that is my wheelhouse. Do you have a kitchen happy person on your list? Or someone who wants to be happier in the kitchen? I got you. Read on. (Yes, some of these are affiliate links, so if you click and decide to buy, I get a litte cha-ching. Listen, my list is full of people, too. Not all are, however, but all are items I genuinely recommend, coin to me or not)
Small (but mighty!) Potatoes (for small change):
While I am in the kitchen cooking, I end up washing my hands a lot. If I am using sub-par soap it really does a number on my skin. I love Brianna’s beautiful, gentle soap. Add the soap dish to round out this simple but high impact gift. I prefer the unscented bars but she has many lovely options from which to choose.
A real essential in my kitchen is a good rolling pin. I like the size and shape of a tapered french pin – good for control. Here is the pin I use at least weekly.
And, of course, you’ve got to keep things neat. For that, I love these aprons, and these towels.
If you are looking to give a bigger gift, maybe a small appliance or dishware, read on.
I cannot live without my immersion blender. It makes pureeing soups and sauces a total breeze. I kinda hate the put-it-in-batches-through-the-blender method, so being able to plop the sick blender right into the pot is a joy. Easier clean up, too! This one is a good choice.
Another piece of equipment I cherish is my rice cooker. Cooking rice seems like the most simple thing in the world but it can be surprisingly challenging. Soggy, crunchy, soggy and crunchy – too easy for these to be the outcomes. Not so with a rice cooker, when you get a perfect outcome every time. I also love that I can set it and forget it so I can have my full attention on the rest of the meal.
An anti fatigue mat may not seem glamorous and gift-y, but if you have someone on your list who is in the kitchen for extended amounts of time, I promise you he or she or they will appreciate it. I like this one because it comes in different colors and designs.
I LOVE these dishes. Monsters, aliens, pirates, disasters. On fancy dishes. What’s not to like? At a glance, the dishes look like your regular, run of the mill, dainty dishes. Upon closer inspection, though…whoa! Calamityware is your own little private joke at the dinner table.
What goes up, must come down, and what goes in, must, uh, come out. That is why I include Who Gives A Crap in this list. They are my favorite toilet paper delivery company because 1) look at the name and 2) they donate 50% of their profits to installing toilets to areas around the world where they are lacking. And they are fun, and funny. That’s a bunch of wins all around.
If you want to give a donation in your gift receiver’s name, please consider Arlington Eats. They are a brilliant, lovingly run group who feeds kids and families in the community who experience food insecurity.
Don’t Forget the Kids!:
Getting kids into the kitchen and cooking is no better gift. It is time spent together and essential skills learned. These are some great choices for the junior chef in your life.
I have cooked with each one of my 5 kids and, though I loved every time, I did not love searching for an appropriate booster and dragging chairs throughout the house. This helper stool wasn’t so much of a thing then, but I wish it had been.
Of course, they will feel super fly with their very own set of kitchen tools.
Really. Homemade hot chocolate is so easy, inexpensive, tasty. There just isn’t any reason to be wasting money on the processed packs. Milk, cocoa, sugar, vanilla, 5 minutes – this is all you need.
Ingredients for one tasty, cozy mugful:
10 oz oz whole milk
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the cocoa, sugar and a large splash of the milk.
Whisk this until it is smooth and combined with no chunks. We do this so that the cocoa powder incorporates well, cuz no one wants to chew on a tiny pocket of powder while trying to sip some warm sweet relaxation. Once you have your starter cocoa all mixed up, add the rest of the milk, whisk and give it a couple of minutes to warm up. Stir in the vanilla and enjoy! Want some variety? Sub peppermint or orange extract for the vanilla. Or stir in some cinnamon. Or for an adult treat, add a splash of whiskey. Just put down the packet.
I love making gifts for people, especially if they are delicious. I do get tired, though, of always doing the easy go to baked goods. Cookies are great, but even Cookie Monster wants a little change up once in a while. Well, ok, maybe not Cookie Monster, but I don’t give him gifts, so I am looking for a little variety for my recipients.
One of my favorite things to make at home is flavored simple syrup. It is a great way to use up the last bits of fresh herbs, get a bit more out of citrus peels or experiment with teas. The result makes for great home made sodas, mixed drinks or desserts. And, it couldn’t be easier to do. Equal parts sugar and water and whatever flavoring you are using. Boil to a syrup and, voila, luscious liquid. To give as a gift, I suggest making 3-5 varieties and packaging them in attractive bottles or jars. Include use and recipe ideas. You could give them with the other components for mixed drinks, or with special glasses. You are limited only by your imagination! Here is a list of flavors to consider:
any tea variety
I can’t really say this is a recipe, it’s so simple, but here is the method: place one cup of sugar and one cup of water in a saucepan. Add your flavoring. Amounts? For the citrus – several good sized peels (avoiding the white pith). Herbs – a good handful/3-5 sprigs. Tea – couple bags. You get the idea. Play around, try things out. Bring it all to a gentle boil for a few minutes then take it off the heat. Let it cool, strain out the flavor add ins, and store.
…the more you eat, the better for you, and the planet. A bit ago I ran across an article that was extolling the virtues of increasing bean consumption and reducing intake of red meat. Most of us at this point know about the health benefits of keeping meals of lean red meat to only once or twice a week at the most. Increasingly, however, it is being talked about as a choice for the planet,as well. Raising livestock for food contributes to environmental troubles in various ways, including increased methane, forest clear cutting, and transportation resources. Reducing consumption and/or switching to small production, local, grass fed beef can have a positive impact.
Though my family does not follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, I see the appeal and benefit and we do try to limit our meat intake. For boosting protein intake as well as satiety and overall nutrition, I try to cook with beans as often as my family will put up with. Lentils, garbanzos, black, white – we love them all. It is hard to pick a favorite bean dish, but today I choose to share one way I love to prepare black eyed peas. If you want to up the bean level in your life, this is a good start.
Black-Eyed Peas With Tomatoes and Capers
1 small onion, diced
4 large tomatoes (one 28 oz can if making this off season)
2 cans black eyed peas, drained mostly but not totally
2 tsps dried oregano or 1 tbsp fresh
2 tbsps capers
2 cups of your favorite cooked grain/grain-like food
Heat a skillet over medium and coat lightly with olive oil. Add the onions and cook until translucent and softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and oregano and cook another 5 minutes. Toss in the black eyed peas and capers and stir in until just heated through. The dish likely will need very little or no salt, due to the capers, but add salt and pepper to your liking. Serve over your grain of choice. I prefer whole wheat couscous but this is equally delicious over rice, orzo, farro, riced cauliflower, etc, etc, or scooped onto crusty bread.
In a bowl, combine the chick peas with the cumin and coriander. To assemble (preferably at the table where each diner does his or her own), top flat bread with tzatziki, chick peas and pickled red onion. Add cilantro if you choose.
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