Kitchen Gifts silly and wasteful or basic and everlasting

I am amazed at the number of dumb (silly) small appliances that are on the market today: cotton candy maker, chocolate fountain, cake pop/donut hole baker, mini pie baker, snow cone maker. And that’s just for the sweets. You also can have a hot dog roller, pretzel maker, corn dog maker, pigs in the blanket maker, and more. Most of them cost around $20 except for the soda maker and a jam and jelly maker that cost around $100! Why do I think they are dumb (silly)? An appliance that cooks just one food is a silly use of money and a waste of space in the kitchen.  It will end up in the landfill in a year or two.

If you are thinking about giving kitchenware this holiday or helping someone set up a home, consider buying the best basic cooking tools you can afford; they will last a lifetime.

More Expensive

Knives –The three I use the most are a paring knife for peeling and trimming, a chef knife for chopping, and a knife with a serrated edge for cutting bread and tomatoes.

Pans –The three pans I use all the time are a medium (3 quart) sauce pan with a lid for cooking sauces, vegetables, rice, etc; a large skillet with a lid (12 inches or more) for stir frying, browning, sandwiches; and a stock pot (10 quarts) for pasta and soups.

Less Expensive

Measuring Cups and Spoons – Correct measuring tools are especially important for baking, but I use them when cooking also. Look for sets to measure dry ingredients that include four measuring cups: ¼ cup, 1/3 cup, ½ cup and 1 cup measures. Add measuring spoon sets including ¼, teaspoon, ½ teaspoon, 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon. Complete this gift with a clear cup that has measuring marks on the side and a spout to pour liquids.

Cutting boards – I like the plastic boards because they are inexpensive, flexible, easy to store, and dishwasher safe. I use several boards at once so I don’t mix vegetables and raw meat on the same board. Some people designate one board for meat and poultry, another for vegetables and fruits, and another for breads.
Peeler – I use this all the time for potatoes, carrots, apples, kiwi, and mangos because I don’t trim off as much of the food as when I use a knife.
Wooden spoons – These are great for stirring without scratching your pans, and they don’t conduct heat so you can leave them in the pot if you like.
Rubber spatulas – I have two sizes. The large one I use to stir and fold batter and to scrape the inside of bowls. The small on I use to scrape small cans like tomato paste or peanut butter.
Whisks – These are great for making sauces and beating eggs or thin batters. Even though a cook can get by with a fork, but the whisk works better and is easier to grasp.
Colander/strainer – This is a handy tool for draining pasta, vegetables, berries and more.
Instant read thermometer – Very important for knowing when meat and poultry are done and for reheating food.
Mixing bowls – A basic set is one large and one small.
Can opener – Give a basic turn-the-crank model that can be cleaned when dirty and stored in a drawer.
If you are gifting someone who loves to bake, you might consider:
• 9 x 13 pan  (used for cakes, bars, casseroles)
• Baking sheet (used for cookies and rolls)
• Loaf pan, pie pan, or muffin pan
• Cooling rack
Not necessary, but nice:  garlic press, weight scale, grater

Stocking Stuffers for the Cook

‘Tis the season for the brain to turn to mush. Last night I stopped by a large department store to return an item. Since I was already in the store, I decided to try to be efficient and do some last-minute shopping for stocking stuffers. But, instead of being smart about my trip, I found myself just wandering through the store in a daze, and finally gave up and left with nothing in my hands. I decided to go home and get organized with a list. Just like grocery shopping, all smart shopping is better done with a plan.

When I began thinking about my list and who is on it (and who is naughty and who is nice!), I realized that in my family we do quite a bit of cooking. I decided to start my list-making with kitchen gadgets. Alice Henneman’s has a list of 30+ Time-Saving Kitchen Tools for cooks which has some great ideas. I found some good gift ideas for the people on my “nice” list plus some items I would like to add to my own collection of kitchen tools: a new French knife and more food clips, for starters. Am I too late for a letter to Santa?

If you have ideas of kitchen tools you would like, or stocking stuffers for others, please leave them in the comment section.

Easy egg dishes are perfect for a simple Christmas morning brunch. Check out It’s a Meal Strata. It is very tasty. To save time, I cook the vegetables the day before and then while the oven is heating, stir the strata together.

-pointers from Peggy

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