What’s Cooking? 5 fabulous gifts for gourmets, hostesses, and you
Part of the joy of giving and reviving gifts is the excitement of something you might not buy for yourself, but that you would really like to justify. What follows are five fabulous gifts that will delight not just those who love to cook, but, actually, those who see it as a bother, and would love a way to make cooking easier, more successful and more fun. Match our gift suggestion to the people on your gift list who need better tools to take cooking to the next level. While some of these suggestions are budget-minded, they are the types of items that your recipients (and you) will use for years, and be delighted when it performs perfectly, every time!
Spice Things Up! Do you love herbs but hate cutting them and mincing them? Microplane’s new Herb Mill ($20-$25.00) is the cleverest, easiest way to get the finely-ground, fresh herbs easily and quickly without any mess. It’s one of those items you might not even know you need, until you have one.
It is so simply to use. Simply put your clean and dried herbs into the mill and grind them as you would with a nut or cheese mill. The key to success is making sure your herbs are washed and thoroughly dried. If they are damp, they don’t grind well. Even the leafiest and hardest to mince herbs like parsley, dill, cilantro, mint will be minced evenly, as though you were a pro. The scissor-like action of the Herb Mill’s two razor-sharp blades (one is attached permanently to the base you don’t have to touch it) work fascinatingly quickly. Another thing I really like about the design of the MicroplaneHerb Mill is the removable herb stripper with three differently sized holes to easily strip commonly used stemmed herbs, such as rosemary and thyme. I received just an herb stripper last Christmas for a friend (not this fabulous herb mill) and I’m grateful she gave it to me, every time I use it. The herb stripper keeps your hands from getting all stained, sticky and bruised when you take the herbs off their stems.
The photo above shows the one I tested in green plastic is exclusive to Williams Sonoma, but the mill is also now available in Stainless Steel. The mills are also top rack dishwasher safe. For more information on the Herb Mill and other premium quality kitchen tools from MicroplaneCheck out the company’s Web site: www.microplane.com, or call toll-free 1-800-555-2767.
For Holiday, 2015 we’re suggesting a CLASSIC IKON 2-Piece Extra Wide Chef Set (srp. $199.00) The new Extra Wide Chef Set offers two essential knives that has some extra girth and heft: the CLASSIC IKON 4″ Extra Wide Paring Knife and the CLASSIC IKON 6″ Extra Wide Cook’s Knife. It might seem counter-intuitive that a wider and heavier knife is easier to handle, but any professional chef will tell you that you’re less likely to cut yourself because a well balanced, heavier knife does a better job.
What makes these knives so special? For starters, they’re made of precision-forged full tang, high-carbon stain resistant stainless steel. The “PEtec edge” makes the blades sharper and longer lasting. In addition the handles are contoured 3-riveted for security and of black synthetic which help you feel confident and comfortable using the blades. The knives are made in Solingen, Germany and have a lifetime warranty. If you take care of these knives, they will last for years, maybe a lifetime. The paring knife in this set isn’t just for peeling, it’s also great for crushing garlic, and picking up prepped ingredients to transfer to a bowl or pan. The blade of the CLASSIC IKON 6-inch Extra Wide Cook’s Knife excels at chopping, mincing, slicing and dicing. The extra wide handle of this knife give you power and control to cut through things without a struggle.
Although this particular dynamic duo doesn’t come with a knife block or sheath, I’d suggest purchasing one to keep your blades from being nicked or scratched. These blades are super sharp and will keep an edge for a long time, but no blade, no matter how fabulous, will stay sharp forever. Get your knives professionally sharpener or use a WÜSTHOF steel or one of their very good, pull-through manual sharpeners. TIP: good knives like these are an investment. Treat them to hand washing, don’t put them in the dishwasher where they will get damaged (I am very guilty of this)! Also check out the “Knife Basics” information on the WÜSTHOF Web Site. You can find this set and other WÜSTHOF knives in gourmet shops and department stores but I suggest you visit the WÜSTHOF web site and check out all the knife styles, collections sets and accessories.
Wok’s The Word: When you’re hungry, one of the easiest, quickest, tastiest and healthiest dishes those you stir fry in a wok. However, not all woks are created equal. For the holidays, a great gift for anyone who likes to stir fry and/or who wants to eat healthier in 2016, or who cooks for a family, is the Anolon® Advanced Umber 14-Inch Covered Wok ($80.00). The traditional wok that I used for decades wasn’t a non-stick one, and had to be “seasoned” with oil. With use, it became scratched and rusted in spots. The new non-stick coatings are not just safe, you can use metal utensils in them. You do get a very nice 13″ Beechwood Pointy Spoon with the Anolon Wok, which I’ve found extremely useful for all sorts of cooking tasks. The Anolon wok has a shatter resistant, see-through, tempered glass lid in case you want to steam something, or keep your food warm. The wok itself features hard-anodized aluminum that heats evenly and is twice as hard as stainless steel. Unlike the old style non-stick woks, this one contains no PFOA , lead or Cadmium. Another nice touch are the silicone rubber SureGrip handles that feel soft and almost “cushy.”
A wok is useful for many things, but it has to be deep enough to accommodate a large pile of veggies or other items you might need to cook down. This one is fairly deep at 17.4″ L x 14.1″ W x 8″ H. Should you want to put it in the oven, you can — up to 400° F. The Advanced Umber Covered Wok is not just useful, it’s attractive, featuring a bronze-on-bronze color scheme that looks good if you bring it to the table. The DuPont Autograph® 2 bronze tone nonstick coating on the exterior and interior is easy to clean. You can use this wok anywhere except induction stoves . It comes with a lifetime manufacturer’s warranty. This would be a great gift for anyone who likes to cook, a student, someone with a new apartment or home, as a shower gift, and for a family gift. You will want one for yourself, too (you’ll thank me for the suggestion, I promise)! You can find Anolon cook wear in lots of gourmet shops and department stores, but check out the Anolon Web Site to find even more ideas!
Two Gifts in one, a Cinnamon Box: Do you know a cinnamon lover? Who doesn’t? Give the gourmet, the baker, the cinnamon-on-everything fan, a unique 3″ x ” Prosperity” Cinnamon Box through the World Vision Catalogue . World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization providing emergency assistance to children and families affected by disasters and conflict. They partner with communities for long-term solutions to alleviate poverty, and advocate for justice on behalf of the poor. The group doesn’t say they’re selling anything, they describe your purchases by saying that you make a donation (a specific amount) and you can choose a gift for yourself as a “thank you” for your generosity. Of course you can donate without taking a gift, but really, it’s a place to buy unusual items as well as help out the World Vision cause.
There are totes, jewelry and other handcrafted items from all over the world. A donation of $85.00 as an example, you can select a “memento of your donation” such as this Prosperity Cinnamon box (the top has the Asian character for Prosperity). You can smell the delicious cinnamon on the box, before you even open the lid to find 3 oz. of fine ground cinnamon, crafted in Vietnam. Vietnamese cinnamon from the cassia tree has the most intense aroma and flavor, and is more pricey than what you might find in your grocery store. *note: When requesting this gift, note that your gift is also tax-deductible less fair market value of $19.00. The “gifts” for your donation are all very interesting, so if you feel like doing something to help others while “accepting” a beautiful gift, visit the World Vision Online at http://www.worldvision.org/