Christmas 2014 Top Ten Gifts for An Adventurous Cooking Life

HOLIDAY GIFTSSometimes it’s hard to know what that crazy cook in your life would really like for Christmas. And because of that, since we too are crazy cooks, sometimes we don’t always get our heart’s desire either!

Last year for Christmas one of my sons gave me something truly adventurous to try in the kitchen—a Molecular Gastronomy Kit. That’s a mouthful all by itself. It is a selection of natural texturing agents that can be used to deconstruct any dish or cocktail using molecular techniques. Still don’t get it?  Me either until I tried it out. Lots of fun and adventure here.

So let’s get shopping! There isn’t much time left. Most everything can be purchased online to make gift giving easier for us last-minute people. Luckily “cyber Monday” has become “cyber Everyday ‘Til Christmas!” There are lots of sales yet to be found.

Top Ten Gifts for An Adventurous Cooking Life

10. Cookie Cutters from cookiecutter.com. Yes they have a lot of cookie cutters including for Christmas but also for all the other holidays AND you can have a custom designed cookie cutter made! Now that’s a cool idea! Shipping is free for all orders over $50.

9.  Suzanne’s Specialties brown rice syrup. Traditional rice syrup plus flavored syrup such as chocolate, maple, raspberry and more!  High quality, no sugar, complex carb sweetener with flair. Maybe your favorite health-conscious cook will make you some cookies! You can get a mix and match pack of 4 or 12 of these through Christina Pirello’s website, Christina Cooks. (Yes, I confess, I just bought a four-pack for myself the other day.)  The pricing is good and includes shipping. About $30.

8. Winter Forest Soaps and Lotions from Williams Sonoma. I usually don’t go in much for scented things but this one made with essential oils, Winter Forest, really captures my imagination and it is delightful! It comes in a dish soap, a counter cleaner and a hand lotion. My Hubbin’ gets this for me almost every year!  $12-$42.

7.  The R-Evolution Molecular Gastronomy Kit. This is the one I described. There are several places to order this from and here’s one—Cookswarehouse  About $60.

6. Teavana Perfect Tea Maker. I saw this demonstrated at my local Teavana store and I have asked Santa for one (Pleeeease!) If you love loose leaf teas you know that they can be messy and it’s easy to waste the tea. You can put the tea in an unbleached tea bag, But it is not so easy to reuse the tea for a second cup. If you try to use the tea loose in the tea pot, you have to strain it out and the clean up is tedious as well as wasteful. This little glass teamaker comes in two sizes and is very reasonably priced. Teavana does have a website.  $20.

5. Vitamix on QVC. I always wanted a Vitamix and two years ago I saw it on a great sale on the QVC on TV. They ship it to you when you order and you can make payments. This turned out to be a less painful way for me to purchase—and immediately receive—my Vitamix which I love love love. So if you’re favorite cook has this expensive piece of equipment at the top of his or her list, I highly recommend getting on the QVC website and watching for those holiday sales and easy payments. It is very well worthwhile.  $500.

4.  Back by popular demand! Flavored high-quality balsamic vinegars from Oleaceae. No limit to what an adventurous chef can come up with using these! Cocktails, dessert sauces, dressings and marinades all from vinegar?  Yes! Unfortunately it is too late to get a delivery by Christmas but don’t let that stop you! These are incredible gifts even if late. $20 a bottle.

3. DIY photographic light box. If your chef is also a food blogger, maybe you’ve seen how frustrating it can be to take decent photos of food! Believe me it is really hard to get a good result unless you can control the environment your photographing in—especially the light! What could be more thoughtful than a hand made gift that takes about 20 minutes to make and uses only a few common and inexpensive materials? (Etsy entrepreneurs would also love this.) Learn how to make a light box here.  $10 or so and a little of your time.

2. Personalized Chef gear from Chefwear.  I once got a personalized chef hat and chef pants for Christmas and wore them and wore them. What a fun way to acknowledge the chef in your life! They even have them in kids’ sizes!  $10.95-$32 plus personalized embroidery.

and the number one fabulous gift for the chef in your life . . . . .

1. Every chef enjoys a night off from the kitchen. Or a long weekend. Or even a week! But if your fave chef is very health and natural food conscious, you probably know that he or she has a hard time finding ANY restaurant or resort that serves meals that are up to their own standards. I can tell you that around my city, I’m the best chef I know and I enjoy my cooking better than any I can buy in any restaurant. What’s a hard-working chef to do?

How about a Healthy Cruise!!!!? Now you’re talkin’!  This is the one to take.

Holistic Holiday at Sea March 12-15, 2015  Features macrobiotics, vegan, T. Collin Campbell, seminars, excursions and cruise ship entertainment and amenities. $3,000 – $8,000 or so per couple.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season!

 

 

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Having a Bright and Merry Christmas

Even the most enthusiastic cook likes to have a day off from the kitchen. And lucky me! My husband treated me to a special Christmas mini-vacation.

Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe was a beautiful spot for a Christmas getaway for two.  And Oh! The food!

Watermelon Salad

Watermelon Salad was out of this world!

The halls were decked all around–inside and out!

A New Mexican style Gingerbread House

A New Mexican style Gingerbread House at the historic La Fonda Hotel.  Check out the little luminarias!

I loved this hotel's unusual holiday decor.

I loved this hotel’s unusual holiday decor.

There was shopping . . .

Native American jewelers selling their wares

Native American jewelers selling their wares

And music . . .

Wheelchair harp player on the Plaza

Wheelchair harp player on the Plaza

And of course, there were Christmas Lights!

Magical Christmas Lights

Magical Christmas Lights on Santa Fe Plaza

More lights on the Plaza

More lights on the Plaza

We are enjoying a wonderful Christmas and I hope you are having a bright and merry holiday too!

Much love, Patty

Top Five Last-Minute Christmas Gifts for Your Cooking Life

I often receive kitchen and cooking-related gifts at Christmas and I love to give them, too. Recently I have found some great gifts for cooks covering a broad price range so I thought I’d share them with you here.  (I know I said there were five but I ended up naming seven because there was a lot of good stuff to choose from. We’ll call the last two a bonus!)

1.  My favorite dishwashing tool is this little Scotch-Brite ™ “dishwand.” It’s a scrubber that holds the soap in the handle and has a nice scrubby sponge head that can be replaced. I heard some of you groan and chuckle! Commonplace and mundane as it is, I think everyone should have one of these.  Under $5. Buy it in any grocery store.

Dishwand

2. A vital necessity for keeping wooden cutting boards from drying and splitting especially in dry climates is Boos(R) Block Board Cream. Amazing stuff to use in between mineral oil treatments.  Really works.  Buy it in stores catering to cooks and cookware or online. Under $15.00.

Boos Block Cream

3.  Lovely New Mexican linen hand-printed dishtowels made by Kei & Molly Textiles, LLC.  Beautiful for drying glassware and they make great props for food photography.  Only $10.  The website is http://www.keiandmolly.com

RASTA PASTA 2

4.  Cooking for only one or two made simple with the Ohsawa (R) Pot.  You place this earthenware pot inside of your pressure cooker and you can cook small amounts of rice, beans and other things instead of a big potful.  And it comes out great! Starting at about $60.  Order from Gold Mine Natural Foods www.goldminenaturalfoods.com.

Ohsawa Pot

5.  Chocolate.  Gimme  Give someone chocolate from Kakawa Chocolate House in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Great “forgive me for being late” gift in case you didn’t shop in time for Christmas Day.  And remember, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner!  Prices vary. Quality is consistently excellent.  Go to their website:  www.kakawachocolates.com or better yet, just come to visit in Santa Fe and get free samples.

6.  Amazing and versatile condiments from Olaecea olive oil and balsamic vinegar company.  Try expresso dark balsamic, roasted pumpkin seed oil to die for or lemongrass mint white balsamic and dozens of others.  Each bottle is under $20.00  You can visit them in Santa Fe too and get samples or visit their website at http://www.oleaceaeoliveoil.com.

7.  An excellent cook’s reference book that I keep nearby and use is the New Food Lover’s Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst published by Barron’s. Answers all kinds of questions about ingredients, cooking methods, converting measurements etc. with over 6,700 entries.  Great for food/cooking bloggers, too, by the way!  Under $20 at any bookstore, Amazon, etc.

Cover of "The New Food Lover's Companion&...

Cover of The New Food Lover’s Companion

Happy last-minute shopping!

It’s a Wonderful Blog

Christmastime

Christmastime in Golden, Colorado (Photo credit:  Patty Allread)

Time to bring back an old Christmas favorite!  You know the story, don’t you?

THE DEDICATED & HARDWORKING SMALL-TIME BLOGGER

Hard-working blogger has big lifelong dreams of becoming a famous writer and traveling the world promoting her bestselling books, etc.  But for now she is just a good-natured, regular blogger who pounds on her keyboard at home and puts her contributions out into the ether for her blogging community to find.  She also reads what her friends blog about and faithfully offers comments of encouragement and tries to help those friends get more blogging hits.

But sometimes she gets lonely.  Sometimes she thinks the blogging world can do just fine without her.  And sometimes she doesn’t sit down at her computer and write anything at all.  And sometimes . . . well, recently . . . she thought, “I’m not sure if I should even renew my domain name.  No one reads my stuff anyway.”

And she stopped blogging.

MEET EDITH

This is the part where the guardian angel comes in.  In this case, it’s Edith Elizabeth Norton Pheffleneuson and she’s a very dedicated muse who is trying hard to earn her angel wings.  You can just call her “Edith.”

Edith has been hanging around ever since our hapless blogger started writing.  Way, way back when there weren’t any computers and writing required actual typewriting and there were no “delete” keys.  Man oh man.  Back then if a writer made a mistake or wanted to change something, she had to use correction tape or white out or start over.  And over.  And over. That made musing a very tough business!

If it weren’t for Edith, our writer might have given up totally.  But Edith pulled her through every time.  At first our writer didn’t have a clue that Edith existed.  Then one day, friend Martha tried to show her that Edith really does exist!  But our writer didn’t believe in Edith.  Not really.

Poor Edith.  It would be impossible for Edith to earn her wings if the writer in her charge did not believe.  Edith felt like an old worn eraser stuck away in someone’s desk drawer and forgotten about. In fact that’s exactly where she was stuck for many years.

THE POWER OF MUSES

The months rolled on with no new posts and now it was Christmastime.  There were no new followers of the blog.  No new comments.  No new ideas written about.  Our protagonist’s blogging future was bleak indeed!

However the Christmas Season was calling and the least our writer could do was write some Christmas cards.  That would be okay.  Rifling through the desk drawers to find the cards, the red and green gel pens and some stamps, our writer spotted Edith lying beneath a ragged half-empty package of AA batteries.  Beautiful, clever, inspiring Edith!

Edith leapt out of the drawer and dove into a nearby wastebasket!  It was a desperate but brave move.  Edith floundered in the rolling, rough sea of paper and cardboard coffee cups calling out, “Help! Help!” hoping our writer would save her.

Our writer reached into the icy sea of trash and pulled Edith out, not realizing that Edith was really an angel.  Edith explained to our girl that she needed help to earn her wings and she would show our blogger what life would have been like without mycookinglifebypatty. No stories about cherished cooking memories.  People dying from eating so much sugar.  Coffee Man a completely unknown superhero. Claude Mouse homeless, forgotten and unappreciated. No new recipes.  No newly inspired cooks.  No new blogging friends.  No new pen pal.

With a sudden infusion of fresh inspiration and a new lease on blogging (literally–domain name paid for another year) our writer rushed to her keyboard and wrote a new post.  And then another one, and another one, and another one!  It was a flurry of blogging and cooking the likes of which our dear writer had not experienced in a long, long time.  And it was joyous!

And it was a wonderful blog.  Immediately upon publishing the first new post, family, friends, fellow bloggers and pen pal gathered around the Christmas tree singing carols and enjoying the warmth and love and hope of the season.  And remember–this very second, with the click of the mouse and this brand new post published . . . . .

“Every time a blogger publishes a new post, a blog angel gets her wings!”

Edith Elizabeth Norton Pheffleneuson earns her wings.

Edith Elizabeth Norton Pheffleneuson earns her wings while serving miso soup.