Holiday season means it’s time to scour the catalogs, off and on line, to find that perfect something for your favorite foodie. Below find some hints and suggestions to ease the demanding shopping chores.

Books for Cooks:
Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer’s New Orleans (Knopf): I judge a good cookbook by the amount of recipes I mark with sticky notes! I was pleasantly surprised to find so many very user-friendly and accessible recipes such as Ashley’s Pickled Shrimp, Peppered Tuna with Asian Guacamole and Hoisin Dipping Sauce, Classic N’Awlins Remoulade, Speedy Shrimp with Tomatoes, Feta, and Basil, and Butternut Squash Spoon Bread Souffle. The style is big easy!

Seriously Simple Holidays: Recipes and Ideas to Celebrate the Season by Diane Rossen Worthington (Chronicle) This book from my good friend Diane Worthington is a treasure. She guides you through the holidays with confidence that everything you prepare from this book will be a smash. From the citrus marinated seafood and chicken paillard with cranberry port wine sauce to the potato pancakes and chocolate toffee pie, the recipes are all winners.

The Country Cooking of France by Anne Willan (Chronicle) THE coffee table cookbook of the year! There are over 250 recipes to please your favorite Francophile created by the founder of the famous La Varenne French cooking school. The photographs alone make you want to call Air France instantly. Publisher’s note: Though this book is described as a coffee table tome, it is still a useable cookbook, with great recipes.

 

Braises and Stews: Everyday Slow-Cooked Recipes by Tori Ritchie (Chronicle) There is nothing better than a simmering stew on a cold night and this lovely collection of recipes give the old concept on stew a facelift. Harvest pork stew with pumpkin, turkey posole, and spicy coconut chicken curry are presented in an easy-to-follow style.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick and Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey (Chronicle): I was so delighted to see another book from my favorite Indian chef, Madhur Jaffrey. The recipes are a cinch to prepare and reflect Ms. Jaffrey’s wonderful taste and easy style in teaching this delightful cuisine. Publisher’s note: This is one of the finest Indian cookbooks ever written to our experience and a treasure to use.

The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook: Seasonal Foods, Simple Recipes and Stories from the Market and Farm by Amelia Saltsman (Blenheim Press): To be fair, this is the market that I get to visit each week so I was predisposed to love this book. It is a wonderful collection of mouthwatering recipes and ideas that should be tested again and again including: garlic, smoked tomatoes and chipotles; chicken legs with kumquats, prunes and green olives; and dried plum and toasted almond cream tart.

Americas Best Lost Recipes: More than 150 heirloom recipes too good to forget by the Editors of Cooks Country Magazine (Cook’s Illustrated): For those seraching for treasured heirloom recipes like phantom stew, hummingbird cake, or mashed-potato fudge, then this wonderful assortment of time honored but lost recipes will be a fun volume to drool over.

 

Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina De Palma (Norton) Those who have enjoyed the amazing desserts from Babbo’s pastry kitchen will be hungry for more when leafing through this cookbook, perfect for a foodie with a sweet tooth and love of all things Batali. Ms. De Palma does a wonderful job explaining how to prepare ricotta pound cake, honey clouds which are cookies from her grandmother, and her chocolate walnut torte from Capri.

Memoir Books:
The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food by Judith Jones (Knopf): Cookbook editor Judith Jones has nurtured along the best and the brightest in her long and lauded career including Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey, Claudia Roden, and Edna Lewis. In this thoughtful journey we watch and learn how Ms. Jones helped to pave the road out of the fifties packaged and processed era into the era of slow and fresh food that we have all come to cherish.

The Seventh Daughter: My Culinary Journey from Beijing to San Francisco by Cecilia Chang with Lisa Weiss (Ten Speed): Another wonderful cooking journey by a noted and respected authority on Chinese cuisine. It’s a fascinating story for those with an interest in the culture and evolution of this time-honored style of cooking.

KITCHEN TOYS: (Prices are approximate)
Cuisinart SM-70BC 7-Quart 12-Speed Stand Mixer, Brushed Chrome Finally a mixer big enough and tough enough for all your baking needs. This outstanding product from the source of all things great culinary wise – Cuisinart – comes this 1000 watt powered dynamo that offers 12 speeds for precise mixing, tilt back head (this is key!), 3 power outlets (high, medium, slow) that can connect to five optional attachments, on/off fold and speed control dial, and a wonderful addition, a 15-minute countdown timer with an automatic shutdown feature. Optional attachments include a pasta maker, meat grinder, citrus juicer, blender, and a food processor attachment. This Rolls Royce of mixers also comes with a 3-year overall warranty and a 5-year motor warranty. ($450).

Waring Pro WM007 Professional Electric Martini Maker James Bond would love his martinis mixed the easy way in this stainless steel electric cocktail maker with a built-in strainer. Simply add your favorite martini ingredients using the 1-ounce shaker cap, turn the appliance on, press, shake or stir and presto, you have a martini whipped up in seconds. ($100).

Lumatong www.store.grilling4all.com How many times have we overcooked meat simply because we couldn’t see it in the dark? The 20-inch Lumatong from grilling guru Steven Raichlen has an LED flashlight attached for easy barbecuing no matter what time of day. The Bakelite handles keep cool and allow the tong to grip the food easily. The nifty light snaps off for easy cleaning. ($20).

Bonjour Hot Chocolate Maker Oval Design There is nothing better on a cold day than a fresh steaming mug of hot chocolate. This new large-capacity old-world designed white ceramic pot (oval, round, or cylindrical styles) prepares fresh hot chocolate in minutes. Heat the pot with the milk in the microwave, and add the desired amount of chocolate syrup, chocolate shavings, powdered cocoa, or chocolate chips. Place the lid on the pot, position the mixing unit in place, and press the button to activate the mixer and blend the hot milk and chocolate. The pots are dishwasher and microwave oven safe. ($30).

Foodie Fight: Food Trivia Game (Chronicle) The ultimate foodie fun. This game challenges even the most advanced gourmet. Perfect gift for anyone who loves to play with food, and food facts. ($19).

Giant Cupcake Pan www.surlatable.com This super-sized cast aluminum nonstick cupcake pan is a great fun to serve for birthdays, holidays, or any special occasion. A cupcake that the whole party can share! ($27).

Stocking Stuffers:
Grab & Dry (www.grabdry.com) This item goes in the “why didn’t somebody think of this before” category. These absorbent terrycloth gloves allow you to dry dishes, fine china, and crystal glasses and put them away without leaving a single fingerprint. And, you will cut back on dropped glasses and dishes since they hold the items so much more securely. ($15).

From one of my favorite gadget companies, Progressive International www.progressiveintl.com, comes some wonderful new kitchen toys for your favorite foodie. Try the Vegetable Wedger ($10), great for potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and even lemons. I also recommend the Microwave Quesadilla Maker ($15) which lets you melt your quesadilla and then cut it evenly into six wedges in a flash. The Seed and Stem Remover ($4) is a wonder which effortlessly removes seeds from peppers as well as removing stems from strawberries or tomatoes. Another nifty tool is the Garnish Slicer ($10), perfect for mushrooms, strawberries and more. The Domed Food Cover ($5) is another great toy which I find so useful in my microwave.

Days Ago www.howmanydaysago.com This nifty item is a digital day counter that attaches to a variety of surfaces with a magnetic or suction backing and counts up to 99 days. It’s a simple gadget that is re-usable, versatile, and saves bucks. Simply attach it to a food container and it will keep track of how many days since you have opened it, closed it, or even grew it. The timers display up to 99 days and run on a replaceable battery that lasts about 18 months. This is so great for leftovers and eliminates my favorite slogan “when it doubt, toss it out.” ($10).

OXO Good Grips 1128000 Corn Stripper What a great and easy way to take the kernels off the cob. This little dynamo gadget strips corn kernels from the cob into a convenient ½-cup capacity container. Pour out the kernels onto a bowl or plate for use in salads or soups. The Corn Stripper comes apart for easy cleaning and all parts are dishwasher safe. ($12).

Note: The Epicurus Group receives a commission from sales made only through Amazon.com.

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