It was with a sigh of relief that I read the first item on my sister’s Christmas wish list: cooking tools to help outfit a new kitchen in a home she and her husband are building.
Suddenly, what was going to be a dreaded trip to the mall turned into a great shopping experience at a kitchenware store. If you have cooks on your list, shopping doesn’t get much easier. It’s easy to find kitchen items for every budget, ranging from inexpensive measuring cups to the finest knives and cookware. Here are some goodies that I think most cooks would like to find under their Christmas trees.
What: OXO’s angled mini measuring cups
Why: I can’t imagine any cook not wanting one, or several, of these handy measuring tools. The small cup, which has a 1/4-cup capacity measured in tablespoons, has an angled surface that lets you read measurements by looking straight down into the cup, eliminating the need to fill, check and then adjust the liquid you are measuring. Use it to measure tablespoonfuls of oil, vinegar and the like. (The measures also are available in 1-cup, 2-cup and 4-cup sizes.)
Shopping details: $3.99 each. Available at Bed, Bath & Beyond.
What: DeLonghi Retro Panini Grill
Why: If DeLonghi’s panini maker were good enough to get “The Apprentice” wannabes fired up, think what it can do in your kitchen. This snazzy looking, sturdy panini maker, designed in Italy, lets you make the classic Italian sandwich with ease.
Shopping details: $79.95 at www.amazon.com with free shipping available.
What: FlavorMagic Gourmet Spice Sheets
Why: Forget all the mess associated with marinating meat and fish. This chef-created product features flavor-infused sheets that make marinating a snap. Simply put the meat on top of a sheet on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and let set 30 minutes or longer. The flavors are transferred to the meat and poultry and clean up is a breeze. Sold eight to a package (for 16 portions), the sheets come in Asian Citrus Ginger, Memphis BBQ and Lemon Peppercorn flavors.
Shopping Details: $6.50 per package. Available at www. realchef.com.
What: Brown Sugar Disc
Why: Does your brown sugar or coconut sometimes get dried out and hard as a rock? An inexpensive terra cotta brown sugar bear will take care of that problem nicely. You simply wet the bear, put it in your brown sugar, coconut or raisin container, and it will keep the foods soft up to three months. The bear can be used over and over again.
Shopping details: $2.99 at www.complimentstothechef.com or (800) 895-2433.
What: Melitta One: One-Pod Coffeemaker
Why: Finally, the lone coffee drinker in your family won’t have to throw away half a pot of real coffee or settle for instant. There are several varieties of coffee pods on the market. I did considerable research before buying the Melitta One: One. It did an admirable job of producing a piping hot, good cup of coffee in about a minute and a half. I had no problems with splashing or dripping that testers noted with some of the other pod coffeemakers. Just so you know, you must use special pods, not regular ground coffee, in the coffee makers.
Shopping details: $49.99 at Target. Box of 18 assorted-flavor pods to use in the coffeemaker $4.99, also at Target.
What: Sili gourmet brush
Why: I can’t tell you how many brushes I’ve melted through the years trying to brush a hot griddle with butter while making pancakes. The Sili gourmet brush, made of silicon, won’t melt under high heat, doesn’t stain, doesn’t retain greasy odors, doesn’t leave stray bristles in your food and can be washed in the dishwasher. The brushes come in several sizes.
Shopping details: $15 for the 7-inch pastry or grilling brush, $21.99 for the grill brush. Available at William Bounds, (800) 473-0504 or www. wmboundsltd.com.
What: Fish turner
Why: The name of this turner makes you think you’d use this on salmon or red snapper, but I bought mine so I’d have a way to remove enchiladas easily from the baking pan without breaking them or losing part of the filling. The broad 8-inch spatula also would work in removing a row of cake from a 9-by-13-inch pan.
Shopping details: $5.99 at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Why: Tiny thermal plastic suction cups hold a real beechwood cutting board steady on the counter. This is a great gift for those who either like classic cutting boards, or don’t like what plastic boards do to their knives.
Shopping details: $14.99 for the 11-by-14-inch board, $24.99 for the 16-by-20-inch board at Bed, Bath & Beyond.
What: Precisionware bakeware from Baker’s Secret
Why: Finally, cookie sheets and cake pans that take the guesswork out of serving equal portions and adding the right amount of batter. The heavy-gauge, professional-weight steel bakeware is coated with a nonstick surface. The cookie sheets have cookie targets that show you where dough should be placed and give an exact measure of how much dough should be put on the sheet; the muffin pans have lines to show how high cups should be filled; the cake pans have markings to show exactly where to cut for same-size pieces. They also have lines to indicate how much batter should be added. The easy-to-use markings would be especially good when baking with children.
Shopping details: Pans include round, square and oblong cake pans, loaf pans, muffin pans, pizza pans and cookie sheets. For availability in stores or to order from the company, call Baker’s Secret at (800) 999-3436.