My Tasty 2010 Holiday Gift Guide
The holiday shopping season is in full force, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that most people on my list this year will be getting something (1) food themed, and (2) available online. (Holiday crowds have never been my favorite, and the 9+ cumulative pounds of baby I’m carrying around these days cuts into my shopping stamina pretty substantially.) In this spirit, then, I offer up some ideas for holiday gifts–all of which I’ve either bought in the past, been given and loved, or plan to give this year.
For your Gluten-free Girlfriends: Blackbird Bakery Gluten Free (cookbook), by Karen Morgan
Gluten-free baking can be pretty hit-or-miss. My experience has yielded the best results from recipes for minimally-rising, homey baked goods like cookies, muffins, cupcakes and quickbreads, and there is no shortage of good recipe sources both online and in print for these types of desserts. But Blackbird Bakery’s beautifully-photographed new cookbook represents a paradigm shift in GF baking that opens up a whole new genre of more sophisticated, French-inspired baked goods to the GF home-baker. With recipes for GF-versions of pastry staples like Puff Pastry, Pâte Sucrée, Pâte Brisée and Pâte à Choux, Morgan expands the typical GF baker’s repertoire to include fancy treats like creme puffs, profiteroles and éclairs to all manner of tarts, both sweet and savory.
For Mom: Rent Mother Nature Gift Leases
For moms who dabble in growing their own herbs and veggies in the backyard garden but aren’t quite ready to take on tasks like cheesemaking or beekeeping, why not lease them a share of a small, family-owned organic farm that does the hard work and sends along the fruits of their labor? I got my mom a Cow Lease a few years back, and I don’t know which she enjoyed more: the delicious Cheddar cheese that arrived later in the season, or the advance photo of Patience the Cow, who was presumably providing the milk for the cheese that she received. (Patience’s photo still graces mom’s refrigerator to this day; to be fair, she did happen to be one of the most attractive cows I’ve ever laid eyes on…) There are a variety of Gift Leases available, and each one helps support small-scale farming somewhere in the country. They’re especially great gifts for moms who don’t need or want more “stuff” cluttering up the house.
For Carnivorous Dads, Boyfriends and Brothers: Happier Meat
While my own dietary philosophy is a primarily plant-based one, I recognize that we all have some people in our lives who are pretty hard-core carnivores. For these folks, my goal is to at least introduce them to kinder, gentler meats: those that have been fed naturally and raised and slaughtered humanely and at less cost to the environment. If meat sounds like an odd gift at first thought, New Yorkers might consider the Whole Beef Punchcard Gift Certificate from Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, which entitles the recipient an assortment of cuts from each of 8 parts of the cow every time they visit the store. Those of you living further afield might consider visiting the Eat Well Guide and searching for humane, sustainably-raised meat purveyors in your area that deliver locally or ship. And though it ‘aint cheap, note that many well-regarded meat producers will ship their products nationwide; some examples include San Francisco’s Estancia Beef and Pennsylvania-based Elysian Fields Lamb.
For Colleagues: Locally-made artisan Jams
While a bottle of wine or box of chocolates is de rigeur for low-budget gift exchanges among people you don’t know all that well, I think we can do better. The local food movement has produced some pretty terrific cottage industries on both coasts, including small-scale Jam-makers turning out brightly-flavored jellies, jams and preserves, often with unusual flavor combinations. On the West Coast, CMB Sweets makes delicious jams from fresh, local California produce, as does Blue Chair Fruit. In New York, Brooklyn-based Anarchy in a Jar will deliver their unusual homemade jams to you by bicycle, while Midwesterners can support Madison, Wisconsin-based preserves-maker Quince & Apple.
In my opinion, nothing is cuter than pudgy new baby dressed up like a vegetable. True, those hooded onesies with ears are pretty darn cute, but a veggie-colored hat with a stem on top paired with a pea-pod shaped sleep sac is quite swoonworthy in its own right. And what better way to instill a love of healthy vegetables in a baby than to envelop them in veggie-positive propaganda from the time they’re born?
For Young Kids: Kid-Friendly Cooking Utensils
What better way to expand your picky little eater’s palette beyond chicken fingers and mac n’ cheese than to get them involved in family meal prep? Besides, enlisting the help of a mini sous chef can serve to minimize their sedentary screen time AND alleviate the burden of some of your more odious meal-prep tasks. (My friend Rachel off-loaded her most dreaded chore of lettuce-washing and salad spinning to her very enthusiastic preschool-aged daughter, who couldn’t imagine anything more fun to do!) A few good picks: Kuhn Rikon’s Kinderkitchen collection of fun, colorful and safety-minded kid-sized utensils; Head Chefs line of silicone utensils for cooking, baking and eating; and Pottery Barn Kids Playful Chef Cooking and Baking sets, complete with apron and recipes.
For adventurous eaters and adrenaline junkies: Hot Sauce Sampler
Spicy food is a favorite in our house, and over the years, we’ve cultivated a pretty impressive collection of hot sauces to suit every occasion. Since some of these smaller and novelty brands can be difficult to find, I order them online from Hot Sauce World or similar aggregator sites. My favorites? Colon Cleaner, a super-hot Habanero sauce which goes great on burgers (veggieburgers and meat burgers alike) and sandwiches; El Yucateco, the hands-down best hot sauce for all things Mexican; Ukuva i-Africa’s Mombasa Peri Peri, which I love to mix into Tuna Salad for an unexpected flavor twist and kick of heat; and Cholula Chipotle hot sauce, which pairs great with eggs and omelets or adds a smoky twist to Mexican food.Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it, RSS feed.