Sunday, November 21, 2010

Top 10 + Kitchen Gadgets- For Christmas

With the gifting season fast approaching, the influx of colourful flyers into our house is enormous.  There are so many purchasing options out there.  And for me at least, it seems that quite often best chance of getting the item I'd like at the best price (or at any price in some instances) is online.  If you have a foodie in your life and are perplexed as what on earth to buy for them........maybe I can offer a few suggestions.  Here are a just few things that I have found either indispensible.....handy or otherwise just plain cute, and now consider them to be on my 'must have' or at least my 'would like to have' list.
  1. A proper chef's knife. ($75-$150) If you don't want to spend ridiculous amounts of money....just get a good 8 inch chefs don't need to go out and buy a whole set.  There is very little more annoying than trying to prepare food with poor quality knives, and a basic 8 inch chef's knife is the very least you should need and will get you though the majority of your knifely needs.  In subsequent years you might like to broaden your collection and pick up a bread knife, smaller utility knife, filleting must think about the tasks you are most likely to do to determine the best choices for you.  While my knife block holds 7 knives, I find that I predominantly use 3 of them.  The 8 inch chef's knife, the 8 inch fillet knife and a 7 inch carving knife.  You should be able to pick up an 8 inch chef's knife for about $120 (in Canada....likely cheaper in the US). Places to look are, department stores like, Sears, The Bay, Home Shops, Kitchen specialty shops, Knife specialty shops or online......or even eBay. Brands to consider include Henckels or Wusthof.  If you choose to purchase online....take the time to go into a store and handle the knives you are's good to make sure it will live up to your expectations.  If you find out the following year that the knife that you so thoughtfully gifted is being mistreated.....(ie stored in a drawer instead of a proper knife block or God forbid not being sharpened).......please rescue it and bring it to a good home. Keep in mind that some people have superstitions about giving or receiving knives as a gift so they include a penny along with the knife for the receiver to give the penny back "to pay for the knives" then they are not a gift.  As an alternative for a much less expensive knife....have a look at the Victorinox Fibrox....well rated and very popular in commercial use kitchens.
  2. Stainless steel measuring spoons and dry measure cups.  Everyone should have these....they are not expensive and will last a lifetime.  If you can find narrow measuring spoons like these they are super handy for measuring out of spice jars. You should be able to find these in any kitchen shop for about $15.   Places like Winners or HomeSense or TJ Max are good places to look.
  3. The Zyliss garlic press.  If you cook with garlic (we use a lot) you will wonder how you lived without one.  They are inexpensive at about $15 and do look for the one with the matte finish that is dishwasher safe.  One of my best buys ever!  It's easy to use and easy to just pop an unpeeled garlic clove into the hopper and squeeze.  Readily available at kitchen stores and department stores.
  4. Silicone Spatulas.  Very useful and safe with your non stick cook wear.  Look for ones that fit well in your hand....not one with sharp or angular contours.....and stay away with ones with wooden handles if you are planning to wash these in the dishwasher.  I am now, after at least 10 years looking to replace my le Creuset ones as they no longer fit tightly to their (removable) handle.  Plenty of inexpensive and fun looking options out there for under $10.  Try looking in places like Winners or TJ Max for the best deals.
  5. A stand mixer.  ($250-$400) If the person you are buying for likes to bake.....they will love one of these! Perfect for cookies, cake batters, dough, whipping cream or egg whites..... My DH bought me one of these several years ago and I believe I've more than got my monies worth out of it. I can only comment on the Kitchen Aid models.  I have the Kitchen Aid Ultra Power 300 watt model with the tilting head and 4.5 quart bowl.  For regular batch baking or even a double batch of cookie dough, this is a good size. The best deals that I have seen for Kitchen Aid Stand mixers have been at Costco and on the Home Shopping Channel. Costco sells the larger 5.5 quart drop down bowl mixer with 575 watt motor for $399 in Canada or $299 in the US.  Several times per year it is on sale for $100 off here.....and near Christmas time is one of those times. The Costco unit differs from mine in that it has a larger motor......a larger bowl.......and rather than having a tilting has a drop down bowl. (If you are from the might be a good time to pick one up as they are on sale right now for $250 plus $15 S&H.)  My preference is for the appearance and stature of the tilting head model as it fits under my cabinets where the larger unit would not.  Also I much prefer the tilting head for the convenience of changing attachments rather than the drop down bowl which creates a congested space in which to change doesn't drop down quite enough to offer a lot of free space to get your hands in. That being said I ....could get over the bulky appearance and awkwardness of the drop down bowl for the extra watts and larger capacity.  I have, on more than one occasion feared for the life of the motor on my unit when mixing a heavy dough.......and I am a fairly moderate baker.  Note that Costco has $100 off right now on the Cuisinart stand mixer with a 1000 watt motor...The Cuisinart model might be worth a look.
  6. Digital Kitchen Scale. ($15-$60)  I originally purchased myself a kitchen scale for weighing parcels for mailing over seas.  If you understand the price structuring of Canada Post and do a lot of overseas shipping.....then you understand how useful your own scale is to own.  Since I have one of my own......I have over time discovered how handy they are for measurement for recipes as well.   If the person on your Christmas list gets a lot of recipes off the internet....then this might be a handy tool for more guessing how much 200g of sugar might be.  Inexpensive and useful once you get used to using it.
  7. Instant read thermometer.  ($15-$100) After watching countless hours of America's Test mother became sold on the idea of owning a Thermapen......and to my good fortune she gifted one to me as well.  No more worries about knowing exactly when something is 'done'.  It has been extremely useful for cooking meats, sauces, candy, and even bread.  Bread was always the one that I could never get just right since I don't make to so often that I have a feel for it.  Well....for white's done at 200F.....and a little poke with the Thermapen and the wondering is over!  There are a few models available and it is most easily found ( at least where I live) online.  There are also some on eBay right now for a good price.....some are the latest model which prices out at $96 plus S&H straight from Thermoworks  and there are a few of last years model which are only 1 second slower in reading...but with a much improved price...have a look. (the image shown is the latest model....But I think the auction is for the older model....still an awesome price)  And this is the best price I've seen on the latest model.  If that seems a ridiculous amount to pay for something that you are not quite sold on the virtues of.....then there are some less expensive ones to choose from (under$20) as well.
  8. A Bamix immersion hand blender. ($139-$300) I purchased a Bamix just before my son was born.  I'd seen them in home shows and been impressed with their power.  Want to make your own peanut butter, whip skimmed milk for a no fat substitute to whip cream,  make your own frozen fruit sorbet instantly, make idiot proof mayo, instant smoothies, make your own puree or baby food, puree soups in the pot........this is the right tool for the  job.  Solidly constructed....will last your life time! Easy to use......crazy easy to clean!  Look for them at home shows, and online kitchen sales and on places like eBay........if you're super a garage sale:)....although perhaps not the best source for gift giving.
  9. Kitchen Cuteness is all over the internet if not in your local kitchen supply store. ($10+) M cups Matryoshka Doll measuring cups by Fred were much cuter than I could might feel the same:)  Or these condiment bottle caps  over at Perpetual Kid might be up your alley if you are looking for something a little silly.  Perpetual kid is well worth a look around in either event.  And you could pretty  much buy me anything made by Pylones......and I would love it. They make gorgeously frivolous items for those who already have all that they need.  You really must go and check them out.....every time I go to Toronto I stop in at William Ashley China shop and inevitably pick up another Pylones item from their kitchen section.  The first piece of Pylones merchandise I ever saw was their toaster.......very cute!  They make a beautiful hot thermos as well, which Star Bucks has carried at can often get these out of season at excellent pricing.
  10. Cup-A-Cake Holders ($5+)  I cannot even remember where I initially saw these.....I think it was in a kitchen shop in Vancouver 2 or 3 years ago.  Well I finally caved in and bought some for myself.  They are absolutely the perfect thing for carrying a cupcake safely in your lunch without so much as a smoosh to the icing.  The individual plastic cupcake holder opens hinged like a book with a spot reserved for your special cupcake.  Plastic prongs catch the cupcake just above the paper liner's edge so that your cupcake will not move inside it's protective cocoon.  We have been using them for a few weeks now for lunches and just love them to bits.  The hinge is I think it's only a matter of time before that part fails.......but I bet it takes a few years.  Best prices on these were found directly from the Cup-A-Cake people, but you can find them on eBay as well.
  11.  Cook Books. ($10+)  As a last suggestion.....cookbooks are nice to curl up with with a cup of hot cocoa.......There are lots of online options with plenty of time for delivery and in many case free shipping....have a look at some of these. And if someone you like...likes America's Test Kitchen...Like I do...then might I suggest ....this book.
  12. I could go on and on....but that's for another post.....
I hope you find some useful suggestions here........and there is still plenty of time before Christmas.......So let's not leave it to the last minute! Happy Shopping!  Stay tuned as there is a Give Away coming very soon (tomorrow if I get it all together) which just might help you in the purchase of some of the above mentioned gift ideas.


Lori said...

Thankfully I have pretty much all of these. And you are right- they are very useful.

Hope all is well with you.

Hans Kortlevers said...

I miss photos but I love the post. Nice gadgets.