Laurie Grad Gifts for CooksHow can it be time for mistletoe and holly? I mean really. Where did the time go? But we do have to knuckle down and think about what to give our favorite gourmet. The economy is still slow so I have come up with a variety of items, including some fab stocking stuffers to make any foodie happy this holiday season.

KITCHEN TOYS:
Boston Warehouse Tools: Some of the most well-designed tools are made by Boston Warehouse out of a recycled wood and a plastic blend, designed for functionality and whimsy. Favorites (all available at Amazon for $9.95) include Major Corey Apple Corer, Marshall Green Potato Masher, Josie Green Ice Cream Scoop, Brandon Green Veggie Peeler, Squeaki Green Bottle Opener, and Sud Green Dish Brush. The Animal House Line also has some fun tools (Amazon $13-14) including Porcupine Scrubber, Bluebird Corkscrew and Animal House Money Peeler.

Cuisinart Griddler GR-4N (Amazon/Zappos $99.95) This combo grill pan is awesome. You can grill foods of all kinds on the Cuisinart Griddler. Use it as a panini press; make crispy pancakes on the grill part; and use it to grill meats so that the fat drains off for healthier eating. The non-stick removable baking plates and cleaning tools are dishwasher safe. Perfect gift for foodies who want to grill but can’t go outside in the snows of winter! It is fast, easy to use, versatile, and cleans up in minutes.

Silvermark Herb and Garden Snips (Amazon $12) These versatile scissors are specially designed for cutting herbs and flowers in the garden. They can handle tough stems as well as fine cutting kitchen chores. They also double as great scissors for opening packages and other tasks.

Silvermark Microfiber Salad Dryer Bag (Amazon $12.00) This is a great “green” way to store washed salad and keep it crisp. It’s also good for storing other kinds of greens and veggies. The bag is totally machine washable.

Microplane Herb Mill: (Williams-Sonoma $19.95) Once you are hooked on a Microplane grater there is no turning back. I love my cheese graters that turn Parmesan into fluff. Now this company has come up with a wonderful new herb mill which allows one to cut all kinds of fresh herbs with a simple twist of the wrist.

Nescafé Dolce Gusto Single Serve Coffee Machine: (Amazon $150.00) Single serve coffee is the rage and this new machine from Krups is packed with more power than competing machines. The coffee is 100% Arabica roast with ten beverage varieties including hot and cold coffee drinks and hot chocolate. The capsules can easily be purchased from Amazon or Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Actify, The Healthiest Deep Fryer: (Hammacher Schlemmer $299.95) Get this! You can make two pounds of French fries with only 1 tablespoon of oil! This super convection type device is amazing. You can fry shrimp, chicken wings, spring rolls or whatever you normally might fry but with a fraction of the fat. Now you can start off your post holiday diet with a smile on your face.

Smart Planet Mini Donut Maker (Amazon $20.51) I tested this fun item with my three year old granddaughter Georgia. I had a smile on my face the whole time. She loved the mixing, the pouring, and especially the final results which were non-greasy donuts. This is a definite winner for kids for the holidays. There is also a Smart Planet Mini-Cupcake Maker (Amazon $29.98) that works on the same principle.

Fabrikators Skrub ‘a Glove – Potato, Carrot, Veggie (Amazon $9.99-11.99) Another fun way to get kids involved in cooking are these colorful gloves made of FDA-tested nylon mesh in both adult and children’s sizes. Rub a potato, carrot, or any other veggie and they are ready and clean for cooking. The gloves are machine washable.

Star Wars Pancake Molds: (Williams-Sonoma $19.99) Kids will gobble up pancakes even if you toss in some whole grains and nutritional goodies with these Yoda, Storm Trooper and Darth-shaped pancakes. The Force will truly be on your side in the mornings with these fun pancake shapes.

Perfect Portion Digital Scale + Nutrition Facts Display: (Amazon $64.95) Get the real facts on what you are eating. This great new kitchen toy calculates weight plus calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, fiber, and protein. It has a built database of 2,000 + foods from which to choose. It’s a great way to start off the New Year after feasting at holiday time.

Battery Crumb Sweeper by Trudeau (Amazon $11.99) This neat stocking stuffer is fabulous for picking up table crumbs without scratching your beautiful wood table. It’s also fun for the kids to use.

Stem Gem (Amazon $8.89) Not only is this adorable tool great for hulling berries in a second, but it will also core tomatoes and other soft foods. Simply insert the StemGem into a strawberry, twist, and remove the stem leaving the strawberry intact. Top rack dishwasher safe.

BOOKS:
Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (Amazon $24.00) For Francophile foodies this large 300 recipe volume will be a perfect gift. The book is hefty but very personable and the recipes are easy to achieve. Julie of “Julia and Julie” could whip through these in half the time. Great successes include Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux (lazy people); Warm Scallop Salad with Corn, Nectarines, and Basil; Tomatoes Provençal: and Top-Secret Chocolate Mousse.

In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite: 150 Recipes & Stories About the Food You Love by Melissa Clark (Amazon $18.15) New York Times Dining columnist Melissa Clark interweaves tales and recipes in this appealing and delicious collection of recipes and stories. Bacon and Pecan Pralines; Crisp Chicken Schnitzel with Lemony Spring Herb Salad; Braised Flanken with Pomegranate; and St. Mark’s Gooey Honey Butter Cake With Lemon and Cinnamon are just a few of the treats from this enchanting book.

Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France by Joan Nathan (Amazon $25.60) From Joan Nathan, the maven of all great Jewish cooking, comes a look into the kitchens of France. Out of this search she discovers that Jewish cooking is alive and well in France. Wonderful dishes such as Algerian Julienned of Vegetable Soup for Passover; Quick Goat Cheese Bread with Mint and Apricots; Southwestern Cassoulet with Duck and Lamb; Parisian Passover Pineapple Flan are presented in Ms. Nathan’s thoughtful style.

Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito (Amazon $16.47) The authors of “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking” have written a fabulous new volume of sweet treats. Lewis and Poliafito left their day jobs as “Mad Men” in advertising to open their dream bakery, “Baked in Brooklyn.” The recipes had me literally drooling with desserts like Red Velvet Whoopie Pies; Caramel Apple Cake; Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie: and Malted Milk Sandwich Cookies.

One Big Table: A Portrait of American Cooking by Molly O’Neill (Amazon $27.00) I truly miss Molly O’Neill’s wonderful columns in the New York Times. For the last ten years Ms. O’Neill has been traveling all over the states collecting recipes that reflect a true American cuisine. Over 600 recipes make this a fabulous gift for a foodie interested in learning about how to: prepare the ideal clambake no matter where you live; how to prepare true bread and butter pickles: how to make Mrs. Callahan’s Best Mashed Potatoes from Idaho (where else?); and how to make Creole Gold Praline Pecans. A must gift for this year!

The Greek Revival: Cooking for Life by Patrica Moore-Pastides (Amazon $23.07) Another way to go light on the meat is with this book which concentrates on the healthful Mediterranean style of eating. Try the Tiropita Cheese and Mint Pie; Gingered Brown Rice with Raisins and Orange; Herb and Garlic Gremolata with Simply Grilled Lamb Chops; and Pistachio and Honey Cake.

The Sunset Cookbook: Over 1,000 Fresh, Flavorful Recipes for the Way You Cook Today by The Editors of Sunset Magazine (Amazon $17.92) I have been a fan of Sunset Magazine ever since I moved to the West Coast in 1977. The recipes are always fresh and innovative with a nod to gardening and regional cooking. Spicy Scallop and Bean-thread Noodle Salad; Pork Milanese with Arugula, Fennel, and Parmesan Salad; Grilled Corn and Bay Shrimp Risotto; and Praline Pumpkin Torte are just some of the wonderful local dishes.

Cooking Light Complete Cookbook: A Fresh New Way to Cook (Book & CD-ROM) by the Editors of Cooking Light Magazine (Amazon $23.07) Cooking Light is a widely read magazine and now they have produced a ring-bound recipe book complete with a free interactive DVD with 100 menu ideas, recipes, shopping lists, and how-to video clips. There are over 1,200 recipes that are tasty and healthful making the book the perfect gift to start the New Year after a holiday binge!

The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living by Mark Bittman (Amazon $21.00) Noted New York Times columnist Bittman considers the perils the obesity crisis in America as well as environmental concerns. In his latest volume he has come up with some interesting answers to these considerations. Food portions and eating in moderation while enjoying your food are key here. Creamy Cauliflower Mac; Pared-Down Paella with Peas, Clams, and Chorizo: Creamy Navy Bean and Squash Gratin with Bits of Sausage are just a few of the ways that Bittman makes food tasty without a lot of meat products.

The Simple Art of Eating Well: 400 Easy Recipes, Tips and Techniques for Delicious, Healthy Meals by Jessie Price and Eating Well Test Kitchen (Amazon $23.10) For fans of this interesting magazine that emphasizes healthful eating comes a compilation volume of fresh and easy light cooking. There are tips on how to oven-fry onion rings, how to make a lighter pie crust, and how to make lower-fat cookies. Favorite recipes include Roasted Parsnip Soup; Risotto with Edamame, Arugula & Porcini: Grilled Duck with Strawberry-Fig Sauce; and Roasted Pear Trifle.

From Seed to Skillet: A Guide to Growing, Tending, Harvesting, and Cooking Up Fresh, Healthy Food to Share with People You Love by Jimmy Williams and Susan Heeger (Amazon $19.80) I have been buying fresh and wonderful herbs from Jimmy Williams and his son Logan at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market for many years. He sells me an herb, tells me how to cook with it, and I run home and make a winning dish. Now Jimmy gives us a step-by-step guide to designing and planting a vegetable garden and how to cook the wonderful byproducts of that garden. (Note: this book will be released in December)

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