Friday, December 18, 2015

Gift Guide: For the Cooks

Do you know someone who likes to cook? Maybe you? Here are a few items that might be interesting!

Raw Spice Bar

There are a bazillion different food subscription things these days, and I've never been super-tempted by any of them. Yeah, there are some interesting things, but then I look at the box and I think, gee, I have that gadget, and I can buy that condiment in the grocery store.

Raw Spice Bar is different. You get spices. And recipes. The monthly deliveries are themed, so one month it might be Jamaican and the next might be Memphis. The packages are large enough so you can make the recipes included, or you have enough to mess around with the spices on your own - but there's not so much that you'll be accumulating spice jars all over the house. And if you don't get around to using a spice or two, the packets are easy to store, too. Lots of fun for adventurous cooks!

Tender Belly Products

Bacon subscription? Ham deliveries? Tender Belly has you covered. Or you can just order a single product as a gift. These folks sell to high-end restaurants, so you know it's good stuff. Mmmm. Bacon.

Master Cook Software

Somewhere in a box I have floppy disks with an early version of MasterCook. Fortunately, I don't have to figure out how to load those on a computer, since MasterCook has been updating and evolving to match the times.

Now you can grab recipes from websites to save to your computer as well as input your own favorite recipes. There are also quite a number of cookbooks included, so you can start using the software right away.

There is a shopping list feature, tips, lots of ways to search, and you can get nutritional information for recipes as well.

I'm planning on inputting all of Cookistry's recipes as an experiment. I'll keep you posted on how I like that, but for now I have to say that it's a pretty useful bit of software.

VonChef Turbo Cooker

If you've been looking at all the different air fryers available, you might want to add this one to your list of things to check out. Of all the air fryers I've tested, this one has the largest capacity, and it also has a few extra features, like the ability to work as a rotisserie. You couldn't put a turkey in it, but I trussed up a chicken and cooked it with no problem.

There's a basket that rotates, so you put your fries (or whatever, but everyone starts with fries) in the basket and it rotates slowly to tumble and mix whatever's cooking. There's also a rack included, so you can cook in the bottom of the unit (and it's pretty big, once the rotisserie/basket thing is removed. I haven't tried that yet, but will be back to report on full results when I've finished all the tests.

Bormioli Rocco Jars

Jars might seem like an odd gift, but Bormioli Rocco has a pretty wide range of bottles, jars, and other glassware that a cook might like for storage or serving.

Or, you know, buy a bunch of jars and fill them with tasty things to give to people who cook. The little jars are nice for home made spice mixes, and the larger jars would be lovely for your home made liqueur or eggnog.

Anolon 10-inch covered French Skillet

I've had this skillet for quite a while ... I think we're coming up on its two-year anniversary, and it is the most-used bit of cookware in my kitchen. It lives on the stove because I use it every day. While some folks say that you should have one non-stick pan and use it just for eggs, I've used this for everything from eggs to searing steaks and scallops. Making sauces. Heating tortillas. Just last week I used it in the oven. And while it looks a little more beat up, it's still going strong.

I've had other nonstick pans that have lost their non-stickiness over time, but this one is just as good as when it was new, despite constant use.

If this one seems too large or too small (it's 10 inches) for the cook in your life, there are other pans to choose from in this line. And a few other designs with the same sort of nonstick coating. This one happens to be my personal favorite, though. Juuuuust right.

Eat Your Books

If your favorite cook happens to have a lot of cookbooks, then a subscription to Eat Your Books might be the best thing ever. Once you tell it what books you own (and you can do this by scanning ISBN numbers, which is pretty quick) you have an index of the recipes in those books.

So, if I search for ganache, I see that I have 71 recipes in the cookbooks I've entered so far. I have 234 possible recipes that use tuna, and only 14 that have partridge. Fortunately, I don't have any partridge I need to cook.

Eat Your Books doesn't include full recipes, but it does list ingredients, not including pantry items like salt, pepper, oil, flour, etc. So you can peek at ingredients to see which recipes are viable before going to your cookbook shelf to look at the entire recipe.

This is a great gift for anyone who has more than a few cookbooks.


Cooking on salt blocks is a thing, and if you have an adventurous friend, they might want to have a salt block to cook on. I'd suggest supplementing this gift with one of the cookbooks that explain how to use the block, since it's not quite the same as pulling out a frying pan.

When the salt block is no longer useful for cooking - for example, if it breaks or wears too thin (it's salt, after all) you can break it up and use it as a seasoning.

It also makes a pretty display piece.

Microplane Products

I love pretty much every Microplane item I have, but the ones I use the most are the graters. If you know a cook who doesn't have a set of different Microplane graters, it's a terrific gift. And if they already have the basic graters, you can supplement with a star grater, nutmeg grater, or zester.

For someone who has a separate bar area, there's also a little bar tool that's quite handy. And there's a box grater ... and ... and ... lots of stuff!

Recipe, Chai, and Cocktail Dice

Recipe, chai, and cocktail dice are fun to use, and might help spark a little creativity in the kitchen. They might also be a fun family activity, rolling the dice, shopping for ingredients, and coming up with a creative recipe for dinner.

Drink and chai dice have fewer dice, but are still fun to play with. Recipe dice come with omnivore and vegetarian versions, so there's something for everyone.


A tagine is ... well ... it's basically a stovetop slow cooker that uses very little liquid. Or, you can cook in the oven, as well. Great for stews and for cooking tough meats. The tagines from Style Visa come in a number of different designs, so you can use them as display pieces or serving ware as well as a cooking vessel.

There are a large number of recipes available for tagine cooking, but once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy to adapt slow-cooker or braising recipes for tagine use - just use very low heat, and don't use a lot of extra liquid.

Kyocera Coffee Grinder

People who like food might also be particular about their coffee, yes? This coffee grinder from Kyocera is designed for grinding just enough coffee for one of those single-cup brewers. Or for brewing a single cup any other way you brew that amount.

The grinding mechanism is easy to use, and you can adjust the grind, depending on how you're going to use the coffee, from coarse to fine.

Gourmet Food Products

Yeah, we know that our friends who like to cook might not be thrilled if we gave them boxes of cake mix or generic canned goods. But they'd probably love a gift certificate to a spice shop or some interesting foods that they might not buy for themselves. A gift basket with a variety of small gadgets and food products is fun for sure. And if one item strikes out, there are always more things that they're going to love!

Tonnino Tuna

Sold in jars, this tuna isn't the stuff your grandma used for tuna casserole.

Hibiscus Pyramid Salt Flakes

Cooks love salt. This one is truly different.


Tessamae's makes all sorts of dressings and sauces.

Vega Coffee

Vega coffee cuts out middlemen and ships beans right from growers.

Not Ketchup

It's not ketchup. Really. A whole bunch of fun and fruity sauces.

New York Style snacks

Pita chips, crisps, and similar goods. Crunch! Yum!

Note: While I received some items at no cost to me for prior or future reviews, I am also featuring items that I purchased in this series of gift guides. I was not compensated to include items in the gift guides - these are all my choices.

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