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Each year, as I get a little older, I find my must-have list waning. When people ask me what I want, I usually tell them something homemade — a card, a story, a scrumptious treat, a song written just for me (thanks hon!) I’m pretty easy to please. But I was thinking, that if someone really wanted to spend money on me (like my mother-in-law likes to — Thanks Gigi!) most times, the things I come up with are the essentials (a new bra or a new blade for my Cuisinart) which can be boring for the purchaser. (Hmph.)

Shadow family in Maryland Christmas snow

When my hubby gives me gifts, he knows I’m a sucker for the hand-drawn cards he gives and the sentimental photo items he makes me (our “bear family” and “shadow family” series, a video slideshow of my son’s birth, a special photo album of our trip to California, when my son met my grandmother.)  He also knows that he can never lose with music and  books.

Years ago, when I left my ex, I took only my clothes, photos, books and CDs. In fact, books and CDs were, really, the only things I was willing to fight for and as a result, he got everything else (the house, the car, the furniture, the dog and cat, my favorite poster of Paris, that I hand-carried back from the La Ville-Lumière — the city of lights — I mean EVERYTHING else!)

Well, everything else — but my pans! (Now, I sound like Steve Martin‘s Jerk, don’t I?– “That’s all I need the ashtray, the paddle game and this remote control.”)

But, YES! I kept my stainless steel, Cuisinart pans and most of the other big cooking equipment (it was clearly mine, as he didn’t really cook.) It’s a decision, I’m glad I made, each and every time I use them. Which got me to thinking, as a cook, what’s your most treasured cooking utensil or kitchen tool?

LOVE these pans — especially, the deep skillet for Bolognese

My food processor is a must-have. I realized this recently, when my “S” blade broke and I was forced to start using my $10 cheapo blender for sauces and soups and I’ve had to resort to hand-chopping for everything else.  (Which, for a busy working mom who likes to serve her family whole, healthful foods — is a total pain!) I haven’t, yet, been able to afford to replace it ($40 for the replacement blade! Yikes!) But — Hey! — ‘Tis the season, right? Maybe . . .

Dreaming of Cuisinart Claus. . .

Dear Cuisinart Claus — if you’re listening, I’d love to review any of the new food processors you’d like to send my way, here on the blog (–and maybe one to give one away to a loyal reader?!) I’ve had my eye on the New Elite Collection 14-cup with three nesting bowls  (Yowza!)

Anyway, the point is, that there are things you love, no matter how simply you live or how anti-materialism you are — that aid you in the guilty pleasures of cooking. This is why I have compiled a quick list of some of the coolest cooking-related goodies this holiday season. Things, I think, are just fabulous for the cook in your life.

It’s important to note that, as with everything I talk about on this blog, I have NOT be paid for endorsing any of these products, these are my true opinions. If any products were given to me for review, it is noted.


Simply heaven ~ Simply Truffles

Simply Truffles:

Recipes and Stories That Capture the Essence of the Black Diamond By Patricia Wells

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book (courtesy of Morrow) and it is truly delightful. If looking at blogs like mine is considered food porn, then Wells’ book is the more high-brow but no less exciting counterpart of food erotica. This is a book that upon opening it, I quickly closed it again, knowing that I could NOT just flip through it like my normal cookbook perusal.

No, this required something special:  a warm bath filled with lavender Epsom salts, a lemon verbena and lavender scented candle, a glass of Sangiovese and chunk of dark chocolate later, I was soaking my cares away while dreaming of the French countryside and nibbling (in my fantasy) on truffle soaked eggs while drinking in the rich history of truffles, which Wells’ makes highly palatable. This book feels truly decadent — even if you never make a single recipe from it. (Though I intend to.) Loads of tips and tricks for black truffle use, including how to get the most out of it and even substitutions for the truffle impaired. I confess, I am in love with this book!

Off the Menu is Off the Hook!

Off the Menu: Staff Meals from America’s Top Restaurants by Marissa Guggiana

This was also an advance copy, that I received for a book review column called Great Reads in Portland Woman Magazine. Usually, I’m reviewing novels for them but getting to review this gem was areal treat. Because I have a review coming out in the next edition (coming soon) I’ll be brief. Off the Menu takes you behind the scenes to the meals that the staff at some of the country’s finest restaurants eat. HINT: You’ll be surprised at what’s cooking at some of these places. BONUS: PORTLAND READERS: 3 of our best restaurants are featured here including Paley’s Place. . .which brings me to. . .

The Paleys have a Place both in my kitchen and my heart.

The Paley’s Place Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from the Pacific Northwest by Vitaly and Kimberly Paley with Robert Reynolds

I’ve mentioned this cookbook here on the blog before and with good reason — it is fantastic. Simple ingredients, masterful preparations with step-by-step easy to execute instructions, great for any level. Paley’s builds on the beauty of fresh, seasonal ingredients (don’t let the section on where to order elk daunt you) by adding subtle but flavorful flourishes throughout (like keeping Persillade on hand) and techniques that once learned, can be carried with you to the book’s end and beyond. My goal is to one day cook everything in this book and I’m well on my way — that is, if I could just stop making the bacon crusted razor clams with basil aioli.

Kitchen Gadgetry & Fun

Sometimes it’s not the tools you need but the tools that make cooking even more fun that float your boat — this is how I feel about Fred (Hint, hint Fred — I could use some swag over here!) They have some totally unnecessary stuff (French Toast Paris toast stamp and the Cakewich pan) that cracks me up and some completely necessary and useful cooking and kitchen clean-up tools that are way too cute to boot!


NinjaBread Men

Thanks to Shelby over at Diabetic Foodie for showing me these!


Russian nesting doll measuring cups — available in red for a limited time! I adore Russian nesting dolls and would LOVE to get a set of these — maybe your foodie would too!

Happy Holidays!