Saturday, December 17, 2016

Jingle Bells, Ice Cube Shells, Cookbooks by the Yard...
Gift Ideas for the Foodie in Your Life

It’s that time again, and I’ll bet you haven’t done all the shopping you need to do. How do I know? Because there’s a whole week and a day left before Christmas, and a week before the first night of Hanukkah. And we all know how frantic that week always is, in spite of all our best intentions.

Well, if there’s a foodie on your list, this is your lucky day. Once again, the Kitchen Goddess has put together a list of items – from stocking stuffers to really swell gifts – that should amuse or excite the food lover in your life. And if this list doesn’t do the trick, check these links to Spoon & Ink for ideas from holiday seasons past:

Spoon & Ink Gift Guide 2015
Spoon & Ink Gift Guide 2014
Spoon & Ink Gift Guide 2013

I should add that the 2013 guide features my coolest gift idea ever: a designer cheese grater that doubles as kitchen sculpture.

And in case you’re wondering, the Kitchen Goddess has not received as much as a sprig of holly for these recommendations. She is a wonder of ethical virtue.

Stocking Stuffers

The Kitchen Goddess loves champagne. But once you open a bottle, you face that tricky issue of how to store any that doesn’t get consumed that night. Admittedly, it doesn’t happen often that there’s champagne left over, but now there’s a solution: the Cilio Stainless Steel Champagne Sealer (online for $8.95 at either or Kitchen Universe). This attractive little gadget was actually given a “highly recommended” status from none other than America’s Test Kitchen, which as you know has fairly demanding standards. According to the ATK folks, “This inexpensive sealer attaches with an easy one-handed motion and an affirming click. Wine saved with it was just as fresh as a newly opened bottle for two full days (a full week if left undisturbed) and still drinkable on day three.... Once on, it was almost flat against the top of the bottle and fit easily in the fridge.” The Kitchen Goddess bought two of them.

When’s the last time you pulled the package of dark brown sugar out of your pantry and discovered that it was a solid brick of sugar? It has happened to me too many times. So I was intrigued to find The Original Brown Sugar Bear, this darling little reusable terracotta bear that, when soaked in water for 20 minutes, will maintain the right moisture level in a package of brown sugar for up to three months. It’ll do the same for other sugars, cakes and cookies, or raisins and other dried fruit. (Though if you have cakes and cookies hanging around long enough to dry out, I’d like to speak to you about this problem.) Alternatively, you can dry it out in the oven and use it to absorb moisture around crackers and chips, or salt and spices – even around cameras and other electronic equipment. And they’re only $3.99 on

As long as we’re talking whimsical, here’s a fun but very useful tool: the Oven Pull Monster. Especially if, like me, you’re always struggling with a potholder in order to maneuver a hot oven rack. Well, struggle no more. This heat-resistant (to 530º) silicone grabber makes it easy to pull a rack out of a hot oven or push one back in. At Bed Bath & Beyond or The Container Store for $2.99.

Is there a cheese lover on your list? You probably think “cheese bags” sound like a ridiculous waste of money. Hah. You would be wrong. Because cheese – even the relatively inexpensive stuff – will quickly dry out in your fridge if you have it wrapped in butcher paper, or get slimy and smelly (bad-smelly, not good-smelly) if wrapped in cellophane or a plastic baggie. Formaticum Cheese Bags (15 to a box) will extend the life of your cheese until you can actually finish it! The polyethylene and wax-coated paper helps regulate humidity and allows cheese to breathe. The bags are large enough to hold a couple of decent-sized pieces, reusable until they fall apart, and even then can be effective if wrapped around a piece of cheese with a rubber band or tape. $8.99 for a package of 15, from Bed Bath & Beyond or N.B. These little bags have garnered 579 reviews on amazon, and have a 4.6 rating out of 5 stars. That’s a lot of fans.

With the increasing popularity of cocktails, many people neglect the importance of the ice. A classic cube will improve not only the look of a mixed drink, but also the flavor because it doesn’t melt quickly. I got these at a food bloggers’ conference a year ago, and I love them. These Silicone Ice Cube Trays will seriously up the game of the cocktail maker on your list. Make the cubes with filtered water only, and store them in a Ziploc Freezer bag. These three trays for 1-inch cubes are $9.97 at; or you can get a single tray for 1.25-inch cubes for $6.95 at Cocktail Kingdom.

Serious Gifts

The Kitchen Goddess was in Sicily this year, and had a chance to sample the local fresh pasta. Oh, my. If you’ve ever had fresh pasta, you know the difference in that and the dried stuff is legion. Now, even the Kitchen Goddess admits: (1) dried pasta is still perfectly fine; (2) we can’t make fresh pasta every time the mood strikes us; but (3) if the mood strikes, it’s not hard but you have to have the right equipment. Here it is: the Kitchenaid Pasta Extruder (best price by a long shot was $129.59 at And yes, you have to own a Kitchenaid stand mixer to start with. But what a fun way to spend a winter afternoon.

You know what else will chase away the winter blahs? Candles. All by themselves, they add a warm and friendly atmosphere, regardless of what food is being served. But for her hubby’s occasional protests that she’s trying to burn down the house, the Kitchen Goddess would have candles at every meal. Some of the most beautiful votive holders come from a company called Glassybaby. You may remember my praise of these glass holders last year, and this year, the company has been especially thoughtful and creative with new versions. They’re boxed so beautifully that you don’t even need extra trimming, and the two here come with a note that 10% from the sale of each will be donated to Conservation International to protect carbon-rich forests.

"Mother Earth"
“Home” and “Mother Earth” are $75 each; other, simpler designs are $44. The company has retail stores in Washington state and California; otherwise, shop online at

Good Food and Good Reads

When Gourmet magazine shuttered its doors in the fall of 2009, Ruth Reichl found herself without a job for the first time in 40 years. So she did what she’d always done in times of stress – she disappeared into her kitchen. She roamed ethnic neighborhoods in New York City to discover new styles of cooking, and from her house in rural upstate New York, she explored farmers’ markets for unfamiliar foods. The cooking itself became a form of meditation. And then she wrote a book about the experience: My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life ($22.75). Like many of her books, it’s a mash-up of memoir and cooking, so it’s a good read, even if you don’t cook the recipes, and the photography is lovely. A New York Times bestseller.

At the other end of the age spectrum is Justin Warner, the 30-some-odd (and “odd” is a good choice here) wunderkind, best known as the winner of the eighth season of the Food Network series Food Network Star. His book, The Laws of Cooking: And How to Break Them ($23.07), offers a playful, non-traditional approach to food, focusing on why certain tastes go together and how to make use of that understanding. It’s not a huge book – but of the 110 recipes, I’ve already tried or bookmarked as must-tries 11 of them. And that’s saying something. It’s a fun read, youthful and irreverent, with unusual combinations – like his Smoked Oyster Caesar Salad (from The Law of Bagel and Lox) and the Pepperoni-crusted Cod with Pineapple (demonstrating the Law of the Hot Dog) – but all so far delicious, and I’m happy to have them in my repertoire.

“What’s better than sandwiches?!?! Falling in love, action movies, nephews, Led Zeppelin, becoming super good friends with Tom Cruise to name a few.” That’s the opening salvo in Tyler Kord’s delightful book, A Super Upsetting Book about Sandwiches ($14.69). It’s not really upsetting – unless you want your sandwiches to be BLTs or grilled cheese. But if you’re willing to try a sub roll with roasted cauliflower and raisin-scallion relish and smoked French dressing and potato chips, then this might be the book for you. Also Chef Kord is clearly onto something successful because he is also the owner of the lauded No. 7 restaurant and No. 7 Sub shops in New York. And New Yorkers know something about sandwiches.

Actual Food – or at Least Chocolate

One of my favorite places to visit in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan is Vosges Chocolates. I started going there because the woman who built the company went to Vanderbilt, my alma mater. But it happens that she knows a lot about chocolate, and I’ve been a fan ever since. The company makes gorgeous gift boxes, with delicious and exotic assortments of truffles, in prices that range from $22 to $250. So something for everyone.

A Gift with a Personal Touch

Fresh spices and freshly dried herbs are a welcome gift for anyone who enjoys cooking. This summer, I put together a spice package as a gift to a friend who had moved from New York to Florida and would be setting up a brand new kitchen. The gift was so well received that I replicated the concept for a bride-to-be. First, I purchased quantities of several unusual spices, along with a few of my favorite spice mixes from Penzey’s. I bought spice jars from, and filled them with the spices and mixes, and added labels to the jars. Then I included a note with a list of the spices and how I would use them. It’s a fun way to share the cooking experience.

In my gift package:

■ Aleppo Pepper (from Penzey’s)
■ Texas Bay Leaves (from a friend with a bay tree)
■ Fennel Pollen (from My Spice Sage)
■ Ground Dried Lemon (from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern products)
■ Whole Dried Limes (
■ Florida Seasoned Pepper (Penzey’s)
■ Fox Point Seasoning (Penzey’s)
■ Sunny Paris Seasoning (Penzey’s)

Happy holidays, everyone!


  1. Great those beautiful cookies!!!!

    1. Thanks, Paula. So sorry I missed the gathering this year, but will hope to make the next one!

  2. Loved this. Thank you for another year of great writing and creative lip-smacking recipes.

    1. I'm always thrilled to hear from you, Stacey, and of course am equally thrilled that you're reading this blog. Hope you are well. Have a Merry Christmas!!