Get Your Craft On

Crafter’s Gift Guide: The Home Chef

If you need a gift for someone that has a passion for cooking, my bet is that they’d love a good kitchen gadget. Take it from me: I love food, I love cooking, and I love kitchen tools and gadgets.

Here are my gift recommendations for the chef in your life:

Cuisinart SmartStick Immersion Blender
I am a soup fiend, so I use this baby at least once a week. It is so much more convenient than loading the soup into the blender. Especially if you’re making a LOT of soup- trying to puree soup in a blender in batches is a pain in the patootie. Not to mention the danger and mess of hot soup explosions. It comes in about a million different colors, too. I know I shouldn’t care what color the damn things are, but I can’t ever resist. (I’m quite partial to the lime green.)

Wusthof Knife Set
If you don’t have a set of knives that are sharp enough to take a finger off, then you are missing out. I was given a set of Wusthofs about 8 years ago and they are still just as deadly sharp as the day I got them.

Now here’s my funny Wusthof story: I bought a set as a wedding gift for my best friend. Another friend and I were flying out to the wedding, and I had the knives in my suitcase. I had planned on checking my bag early, but we were running late, and we decided to go through security with our luggage and check our bags at the gate. Our plane is supposed to leave in 5 minutes, and we’re booking it through the airport. We get to the security check, and the TSA pulls my friend aside because something she’s wearing is setting off the metal detector. Great.

As I’m standing there, tapping my foot nervously because we’re seriously going to miss our flight now, I notice that the TSA has taken a special interest in my suitcase. First I think, of course, this is just my luck. My bags are always ALWAYS the ones that get “randomly” searched. Always.

The TSA agent calls her boss over. Now what?! Her boss walks over and asks me, “Is there something long, sharp, and metal in your suitcase?” And completely oblivious  me goes, “Yeah. Knives.”  Like I can’t imagine why that would be a problem. DUH. And he says, “YOU HAVE KNIVES IN YOUR SUITCASE?”  Then I realize what a freaking idiot I am and start explaining that I’m not a psycho. They’re very nice kitchen knives. They’re a wedding gift. We are going to our friend’s wedding and WE ARE GOING TO MISS OUR FLIGHT.

The TSA guy actually wound up being super nice. I’m pretty sure trying to bring sharp pointy stabby things through security is exactly the kind of thing that is supposed to get you pulled aside and stuck in a weird little interrogation room with yucky dim fluorescent lighting. Instead he said that I could go back and check my bag or they could take the knives out and let me through. “What happens to the knives?” I ask. “They get thrown away.”  ARG! So my choice is miss my flight or give up the knives. I gave up the knives, and we did make our flight. (But missed the connecting flight. And they lost my friend’s luggage. It was one of those kinds of trips.)

Misto Olive Oil Sprayer
I like to make a lot of baked versions of fried foods, and one of the tricks to getting a good crisp when you bake is spray oil. A lot of recipes tell you to brush on the oil, but in my experience, the brush leaves big gobs of oil. So I always use spray oil instead. But I hated that I was buying at least a can a month. Total waste of packaging and money.

So I finally got myself one of these sprayers. You can use any oil you want. I actually have two now- one for vegetable oil and one for olive oil. Making fresh baked tortilla chips and kale chips is super easy.

KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I burned through 3 different blenders in 1 month.  (Hamilton Beach is now on my Never Buy Again list.) I’d make a batch of soup or a smoothie, and the blender would be reduced to sparks and smoke. Until I caved and bought the KitchenAid. I think the secret is that the base of this blender weighs a TON. This thing makes the smoothest smoothies I’ve ever had.  Oh yeah, and the colors….

Cuisinart Food Processor
A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that a food processor and a blender do the same thing. They are two different beasts, and I couldn’t live without either one. My favorite things to make in the food processor are things that I absolutely could NOT make in the blender.

My #1 favorite thing is homemade pasta. You can put pasta dough together in about 2 minutes in the food processor. Same for pie dough. You can also make homemade mayonnaise and peanut butter. (If you haven’t had those fresh made, they will blow your mind.) You can also chop and slice veggies and fruit, make bread crumbs, and grind your own meat!

I have an ancient food processor that I think might have originally been my grandmothers, but when it dies, I’m replacing it in a heartbeat with this one.

Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker
I’ll admit, an ice cream maker is low on the list in terms of necessity, but making homemade ice cream is really fun. Think of any crazy flavor you want, and you can make it! It’s also great if you’re looking for a healthier option. You can make your own frozen yogurt (homemade Pinkberry, anyone?), sorbets, or granitas!

My absolutely favorite so far has been this chocolate sherbet recipe. I know it sounds bizarre, but it’s SO DELICIOUS. I love chocolate, but I’ve never been a big fan of plain chocolate ice cream. It never tastes very chocolate-y to me. This chocolate sherbet is cold, soft, chocolate fudginess.

Panasonic Bread Maker
If you love fresh baked bread as much as me then you need a bread machine. You literally throw in the ingredients, push a button, and it does the mixing, kneading, rising, and baking! And it’s not just bread- pizza dough, english muffins, cinnamon rolls, hot dog and hamburger buns! (You haven’t had a hot dog until it’s on a homemade bun.)

I made my bread by hand for a while, and yeah, it’s fun every now and then to get all doughy and sticky and messy. But I’m a lot more likely to make my own bread instead of buying it at the store when I know it’s just 5 minutes putting the ingredients together and the push of a button. (Buy one for yourself a little early and give out tasty home baked treats for gifts!)

KitchenAid Stand Mixer
I think some people may be under the impression that there’s a lot of hype around the KitchenAid Mixer, but let me tell you about the cheapo off-brand mixer I had.

I used it once, and then I banished it to the Salvation Army. The first problem was that it had a very poorly designed bowl with a ring-shaped indent at the bottom. The indent meant that whatever you were mixing didn’t get mixed in that spot. So if you’re making a cake, you wind up with a good portion of the dry ingredients never getting mixed into the rest of the batter.

The second problem was that it was too lightweight. One of the secrets to the KitchenAid, like their blender, is that the base weighs a ton. The weight means the motor can spend it’s energy mixing what it’s supposed to be mixing, and not fighting against the centrifugal force of the mixing action.

I tried to make bread with my wimpy mixer (which was clearly an intended function, as it came with dough hooks), and not only did the machine WALK ACROSS my countertop because of the shimmying and shaking of the struggle of trying to knead the dough, but the dough wound up climbing up the dough hooks. Up, up, up, until there was a big doughball monster on top of my machine.

The KitchenAid can also do the work of several other gadgets I’ve mentioned. Use dough hooks to make dough for bread, pizza, rolls, and buns. And they sell an Ice Cream Maker Attachment!

So if you’re not ready for the investment, elbow grease and a whisk work just fine. But if you’ve been eyeing the stand mixers and wondering if the price of the KitchenAid was truly worth it, I can tell you that it is. (Plus, the colors!)

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