Christmas carols are playing in grocery stores and ads are out in force. We can’t deny it any longer. It’s time to shop. Now’s our chance to take advantage of Black Friday deals and/or order online, so we can relax all December long. (Haha, just kidding. No one relaxes in December, but that’s my fantasy.)
So to help you get started, here are 15 of my favourite kitchen tools, toys, and other gift ideas, from small gestures to big splurges. Not must-haves, but the kind of nice-to-haves that make great gifts. Not sponsored, by the way, just my opinion. And not an exhaustive list, but rather products I’ve used and love. Cooking is critical to healthy eating, so let’s make it easier and enjoyable for those we love.
Note: Prices are in Canadian dollars and are approximate, based on what I see today in the link I’m sharing, just to give you an idea.
- Nice tea ($12) or coffee – If you want to give something to an office, please consider this instead of chocolates or cookies. Trust me, the sugar overload in most office kitchens (at least the ones I’ve worked in) is waaaaaay beyond what most people want or need. A client gave me a tin of this “Joy” tea last year. Greatly appreciated! Coffee shop gift cards are always welcome too.
- Stainless steel bowls ($8-17, depending on size) – I have three of these (8″, 11″ and 13″), and one or another gets used almost every day. They’re lightweight so easy to grab, use, and clean. I like lots of room when tossing a salad or mixing batter, so the biggest is my favourite. And unless we’re trying to be fancy we bring them to the table for serving too.
- Apple slicer – $34 – I seriously don’t know why anyone cuts apples with a knife. This is so easy! Ours gets used several times a week. The one we have is this one from Williams-Sonoma. I like it because it makes 16 thin slices, which is perfect for throwing together an apple crisp or a quick snack for my little ones. However, it’s actually a bit finicky to use and clean. The 8-slice ones, of which there are many more available, are probably better in that respect, if you don’t mind bigger hunks of apple. Either way, very handy tool.
- Spilling the Beans – Cooking And Baking With Beans Everyday – ($18) – If you’re like so many of my clients, you want to cook with more lentils and beans, but beyond chili and soup, you’re not really sure what to do with them. I recommend this cookbook often. It’s co-authored by a local food guru, Julie Van Rosendaal, and I have yet to make anything in it that’s not easy and delicious. If you consider yourself more of a meat and potatoes person, you’ll find this very accessible. For a sampling of the recipes, head to her website and scroll down to “Beans”.
- Nourish- Whole Food Recipes Featuring Seeds, Nuts and Beans ($27) – This is another cookbook gem for those trying to get more beans, as well as nuts and seeds. It’s co-written by a dietitian (yay!) and has more really heart-healthy and vegetarian dishes than Spilling the Beans. I recommend it for those already eating pretty well and ready to go to the next level.
- Swissmar peelers ($27) – I didn’t think these were anything special until we went to a friend’s cabin and used her dull, clunky peeler. Life is too short for that! I’ve had these for several years and they are still razor-sharp. We use the straight one most often for hard vegetables like carrots. The serrated one does soft-skinned fruit like kiwis and mango, and the julienne peeler makes long thin strips, which are great for salads, especially if you don’t have a spiralizer (see #10).
- “Fit & Fresh Men’s Sporty” Insulated Lunch Bag ($27) – Despite the silly name, we like this better than any of the cheap insulated bags we’ve picked up at the grocery store. It velcros shut and then rolls and snaps, making it easy to carry. And who doesn’t want to be fit and fresh?
- Stainless steel measuring cups and spoons ($30) – I’ve had a set of the measuring cups from Williams Sonoma for almost 20 years and they still look and feel great. A nice step up from plastic. The spoons I use are actually from Lee Valley, and I like them because they’re narrow, so they can fit into any spice jar.
- Yumboxes lunch containers ($37) and Cooler Bags ($22) – I discovered these through dietitian Susan Watson. They’re pricey but well-made, so we just bought one set and use them every day. Routine = survival, right? You can put fruit and veggies right alongside the main dish, which ups the chances that your little one will actually have a nibble. With the matching bag, I’m confident the food stays cold until lunch.
- Spiralizer ($43) – Spiralizers became popular with the Paleo diet, which forbids pasta and other grain foods. The idea is to make “noodles” from zucchini and other vegetables. I have no problem with pasta, but most of us could stand to cut back our portions and swap in some vegetables. Enter the zucchini noodle. And guess what? They actually taste really good. You can lightly saute them in a little oil or boil with the pasta for the last couple of minutes. Sometimes I do the “zoodles”, as they call them, alone, but for the family, I usually mix half and half with regular pasta. Spiralizers are also good for making carrots and beets look pretty in salads, and making shoestring baked fries, which are finicky but soooooo good!
- Matching food storage containers (price varies). We use the Rubbermaid Easy Find Lid containers, but I don’t think it matters, as long as they match! Then they nest for easy storage, finding a lid is a cinch, and they stack nicely in the fridge or freezer. We saved our old mismatched containers and use them for storing lego, craft supplies, and other odds and ends.
- Zoku ($54) – It makes popsicles in less than ten minutes! Need I say more? Not if you have kids at home. A fun way to get them in the kitchen making creations with fruit and yogurt and other good stuff. Warning: You have to follow the directions carefully or your popsicles will get stuck. If you’re buying for someone who has one, get them the tool set ($33) for more creative twists.
- SodaStream ($169) – If you like carbonated water, you must have a SodaStream. And if you’re still drinking pop, juice, or other sugary drinks because water doesn’t quite do it, maybe this will help you switch. It saves you having to buy and recycle bottles, but there is an ongoing cost, to replace the carbonator. We drink 2-3 cups a day and replace it about every 3 months, for about $20. Less than Perrier, that’s for sure.
- Woll frying pan ($204) – This is my biggest ticket item, but honestly, we love this pan. For years I struggled with food sticking to pans, or nonstick surfaces breaking down. On the recommendation of a friend, I bought this for my husband last Christmas (because he does the dishes, hahaha). He loves it! So easy to clean. There are various sizes, but we have this deep 12.5″ one and I cook with it just about every day. The only downside is that it’s very, very heavy. And there’s the cost. If you want to wait, sometimes they’re at Costco and usually at the Calgary Stampede.
- Bonus: Instant Pot ($110, or $150 with the yogurt-maker feature) – Okay, I don’t own this yet, but it’s on my wish list. A couple of dietitian friends rave about them. It’s basically a pressure-cooker, slow-cooker, rice-cooker, porridge-maker, steamer, sauté-pan, and optionally a yogurt-maker. And invented in Canada no less! Read more here from The Kitchn. And someone please tell my husband.
I could go on and on about fun kitchen toys, like the countertop-mushroom farm we’ve experimented with, the insulated travel mug I take everywhere, or the outdoor wine glass I saw at a party, but hopefully these are enough ideas to help you get your holiday shopping started and help a loved one enjoy cooking even more.
What tools and toys do you love in your kitchen? Please take a minute to share your gift ideas on the Facebook page. I’d love to hear what’s helping you cook and eat in the sweet spot. And happy shopping!