Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Happy Holidays! It’s the Kitchen Goddess’s Gift Guide for the Foodie in Your Life
What’s cooking? Are you kidding? Who has time to cook?

The shopping season is now in full force, though I hope you all had the good sense to stay home with your feet up on Black Friday. If there’s a foodie on your list, or you’re writing to Santa and can’t decide what to ask for this year, the Kitchen Goddess has a few suggestions.

Please note: The Kitchen Goddess has not received as much as a jingle bell for these recommendations. She is a wonder of ethical virtue.

$20 and under

It’s always fun to find something I like for less than $20. And it doesn’t happen that often, so take note.

I gave one of these little crumb-catcher gizmos to my daughter-in-law last year, and she says it’s awesome. Claims she uses it several times a day. It’s even fun to use. So if you have children or grandchildren under the age of 10, or anyone in your house who has a tendency to leave the table looking less than pristine, this is the gift. It comes in a red ladybug design or this cute mouse in white. I got it at the Container Store for $11.99.

You have no idea how useful an egg slicer can be. Really. In fact, calling it an egg slicer may qualify as the understatement of the century. Yes, eggs, but also mushrooms, strawberries, soft cheese, olives (seeded), bananas, avocado (also seeded),... Use your imagination. And you don’t have to look far: they’re at prices from $3.99 to $14.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Sur la Table,, your local restaurant supply store, and (if you have time) a nifty online resource called

If your Kitchen God or Goddess has a KitchenAid mixer, put this beater blade on your list. Designed with rubber “wipers” to eliminate the need to stop and scrape the bowl manually, the blade has garnered outstanding reviews. Just be sure to get the one that matches your recipient’s model KitchenAid machine – the tilt-head version takes a different shape than the one for the lift mixer. Comes in yellow with blue blades, white with red blades, and as shown here. At, it’s $16.59.

A repeat from last year, because it’s worth it: Here’s something you never knew you or your local home chef needed. A bread wrap. Yes, you read that right: a bread wrap. It’s $15 from a company called Bee’s Wrap, but you can also get it at for $18. Organic cotton muslin that’s been dipped or somehow saturated with beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin. Sounds weird, I know, but you wrap a loaf of bread in this cloth, then use the warmth of your hands to mold the wrap around the bread. It’s antibacterial, seals perfectly, and keeps the bread fresh. You can wash the wrap in cool water and use it over and over. And it works. Take it from the Kitchen Goddess.

Over $20

After years of limping along with my analog cooking thermometer (for candy and oil) and the cheapo variety – that never worked – for meats, the Kitchen Goddess finally bit the bullet and got this fancy-schmancy digital version: the ThermoWorks ChefAlarm ($59). It’s the favorite of the America’s Test Kitchen folks, and you know how they torture a product before they commit. This piece of equipment is amazingly easy to operate, with clear and straightforward labeling of the various functions. Smashing reviews on, but as far as I can tell, only available through the ThermoWorks company.

Cutco Traditional Cheese Knife ($84 at the Cutco website or at Cutco retail stores), with what the company calls a Double-D®-edge blade. Its original use was for cheeses, but the company has figured out that the cut-out style of the blade also keeps vegetables and fruits from sticking. Which makes slicing those items a lot easier than with a traditional blade. I tested it out in the new Cutco store here in Austin, and was so impressed I bought one for myself. The Kitchen Goddess is into “easier.”

A couple of years ago, I contributed to a Kickstarter campaign because I thought the product they were making was so completely cool. I still think so, and it looks like others agree with me because that product is now available at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) store. The Porthole Infuser ($100 to non-members, $90 to members) is a gadget for creating cocktails, infused oils and syrups, salad dressings, and more. It comes completely apart for cleaning and is dishwasher safe. You load in your spices, herbs, fruits, and liquid, then let the mix sit for varying amounts of time, then serve. It stands 7 inches high and holds about 13 ounces of stuff. I love the look, but even more I love the fun of building the display. There’s a Facebook page (but of course!) for owners to share recipes, and a website with featured mixes.

You may remember that the Kitchen Goddess is extremely fond of candles. They’re a symbol of hospitality and hope. Candlelight creates a mood that’s friendly and warm, quiet and intimate, regardless of what’s being served. Everyone looks better in candlelight. So whenever I set the table for a dinner party, candles are a major factor in the decor. And the most beautiful votive candle holders – in my view – are from Glassybaby ($44 each). From a deep, yummy plummy to pale celery or baby’s-bottom pink, the range of colors can match any decor, and the glass imparts a glow that’s soft and inviting. Lovely as individual notes, and great in groups. I have 5 in my kitchen: four shades of green and a purple. If you live in Washington state or California, check out the stores; otherwise, shop online at

Way over $20

If you’re looking to really drop some dough on a great present, consider a Vitamix. On, models range from the 1914 2-speed Blender ($300, refurbished) to the newest 780 ($690). At a book fair last year, I heard cookbook author Michael Ruhlman (The Making of a Chef as well as books with Thomas Keller and Eric Ripert) call these machines “the Mazzerati of kitchen equipment.” I scoffed. Then my darling hubby gave me one for Christmas. Oh, my – what fun. Just turn that sucker on and watch it pulverize the world.


A list of foodie gifts wouldn’t be complete without a few of the latest cookbooks. Here you go:

■ San Antonio restaurateur (and Kitchen Goddess friend!) Cappy Lawton, in collaboration with food writer, Chris Waters Dunn, has produced the first ever book on Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex ($30.55 on And what fun it is! The authors open with a clear and amazingly helpful range of topics, from a primer on Mexican spices and cheeses and chiles, to instructions for a delicious and healthy cactus salad, and how to make your own tortillas and Crema Mexicana. Once you get to the recipes, you recognize the terms and ingredients, and the cuisine feels already familiar. The recipes are carefully crafted in an easily followed, step-by-step format, presenting enchiladas with a broad range of styles and fillings. And the photography is gorgeous.

■ One of the more reliable online sites for recipes is Food52, begun by Amanda Hesser (former food writer/editor for The New York Times) and Merrill Stubbs (freelance food writer, food tester at Cook’s Illustrated, and caterer). While working on The Essential New York Times Cookbook, they conceived of the Food52 site as a way to bring cooks together to exchange recipes and ideas about food. The latest production is Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook ($21 at The recipes come from well-known cooks like Yotam Ottolenghi and Alice Waters, from restaurants like River Café and Momofuku, and from names you’ve never heard of. According to the introduction, “these foolproof recipes rethink cooking tropes, solve problems, get us talking, and make cooking more fun.” At the Texas Book Festival this year, I watched the editor perform magic with a couple of these recipes, and I got so excited, I bought the book.

■ J. Kenji López-Alt has become something of a cult figure in the online world of cooking. Part Bill Nye the Science Guy, part Rachel Ray, he’s a columnist for Cooking Light magazine, and the author of a James Beard Award-nominated website called The Food Lab, which steals the show from its parent site, The man writes with a style that’s engaging and easy to read, delivering short-cuts and scientific explanations for his actions that leave you thinking, “Of course – why didn’t I think of that?” (But we won’t get into your shortcomings here.) In his book, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking through Science ($27.47 on, he delves into conventional methods for a dish to discover why they don’t always work well, and the newer, simpler ways to achieve far better results. The Kitchen Goddess has not heard so much hype about a cookbook since,... well, ever. And she, ahem, hopes that someone in her family will tell Santa.

Happy holidays, everyone!


  1. I own that cheese knife! bought it at a Home Show or Boat Show or some such and I thought he was nuts. Because it's not cheap. BUT it's one of my favorite items in my kitchen. Worth every penny.

  2. So glad to hear someone else feels that way. I had taken my knives in for sharpening and they had a little demo board set up for the cheese knife, so I tried it. Very impressive -- and I was sure there wouldn't be a difference.