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.


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


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

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: 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

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!

Conveniently Impractical

Compared to some people, I just don’t keep up with high-tech gadgetry.  I do have an Android phone (but don’t know how to use most of the features yet – to me it’s a phone) and this past Christmas I got my first iPod which I do enjoy.  (Before that I was listening to music on a big boom box CD player that I’ve had for twenty years and I have to be in my kitchen to do so.)  I’ve barely managed to learn how to use my new toys with the help of my husband and advice from Joe, my “technology life coach.” (I keep telling him he could have a career being a technology life coach and charging people like me for his consultations!)

As for high-tech on the Internet, I’m certainly not against it.  I enjoy having multiple channels to rapidly communicate on.  After all, I’m blogging aren’t I?  But if I want to know how my friends and family are doing, I like visiting them.  And I still write real letters and mail them.  I refuse to use that snide term, “snail mail.”  Most people would love to get something in the mail besides bills and advertisements!  There is nothing like a handwritten letter or card.  (Please write to me if you know my address–a personal letter amongst those bills is so refreshing!)

My best friend from college, Martha, persistently begged me to get onto Facebook and finally I did.  I found out that even though there were “posts” to read nearly every day, this was by no means a way to truly catch up with her and her life except for photos when they’re posted.  It is too contrived or something.  And too public. So I traveled to Virginia to see her and then started writing her real letters.  So much better and much more personal and satisfying.

In my cooking life, I’m also not high-tech when it comes to kitchen gadgets and for much the same reasons, I think. Over the years I have seen new and improved kitchen and cooking gadgets come and go without even a thought of buying them.  Not that they’re all bad–I do have a few favorites–but really my basic cooking tools do the job and for the most part I don’t need choppers, grinders, processors, slicers, dicers, “bullets,” electric grills, yoghurt makers, or a Darth Vader bread-imprinting toaster.  I don’t even want or need a microwave.

Yes.  I said NO m i c r o w a v e  ovens for me!  (In my opinion, they aren’t “high” tech — they’re OUT tech!)

Give me a good knife, a cutting board, some cast iron and stainless steel pots, a gas stove and I’m good to go!  I do love a high-quality sharp knife which is a must for cooking.  Cheap or dull knives in the kitchen are dangerous and you will never get a consistent, aesthetic product with them.  My current favorite knife is the Shun Elite and I have a big vegetable knife and a smaller paring knife.  This is practical and convenient.

No fuss, no muss julienne carrots

Me and my knives can take on any chopper-slicer-dicer thingy.  I can julienne carrots like nobody’s business, cut dozens of paper-thin cucumber slices or dice an onion faster than you can load your slice-a-matic.  Cole slaw?  No problem.  And my clean up is a wash off of a knife and a few swipes of the cutting board–nothing to disassemble, get into the corners and crevices to clean, dry all the parts and put back together.  Who wants that mess?!!

If you learn to use your basic kitchen tools right, you will find they are the quickest and most convenient way to get a great meal prepared.  It is also the way to get the most aesthetic and delicious meal.  You can’t exactly imbue a lot of “life” into food when you’ve trapped it into a set of electric-powered blades and mowed it down to size or scrambled its molecules all to pieces in the nuker.  Using a good knife and hand-cutting vegetables is an art which allows you to implement your intentions and creativity in a way that really communicates in your finished dish.

Not that my cupboards are completely devoid of any type of kitchen gadget.  I do have a few favorites that amuse and entertain me and work well enough that I’m willing to pay the price of having to disassemble and clean them:

1.  My mother’s food mill.  This is by far the best kitchen gadget for mashing things.

Easy squeasy

2. A plastic lemon juicer that came free with coupons and purchase of a popular salad dressing mix.  A former roommate got it and I inherited it.  You can’t beat this thing for getting a lot of fresh, seed-free lemon juice fast.

3. The Garlic Pro E-Zee-Dice.  Mostly I use my knife and regular garlic press to prepare garlic.  But this thing dices so much garlic so fast it is amazing!  I use it because it works oh so well and I LOVE garlic.

None of these things are electric but all of them are time-consuming to clean after use. For the most part, gimme my good knife and big ol’ cutting board.  That’s my idea of high-tech in the kitchen.  That’s how I roll.

Got garlic?

So where do you stand on the whole kitchen gadget situation?

And do you ever write letters?