Stocking stuffers that cooks will love
Just about anyone who owns a KitchenAid, Viking, DeLonghi, or Cuisinart stand mixer will admit their only complaint about the appliance is how often you have to stop mixing and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure all ingredients are evenly incorporated – the continuous stopping and starting adds extra preparation time and more wear on the mixer motor, and even the most careful bakers can still end up with an unmixed blob at the bottom of the bowl. All those problems are solved beautifully by the BeaterBlade+ from New Metro Design, a new plastic paddle attachment with rubber flaps that scrapes the sides and bottom of the bowl during the mixing process. I've used them recently on my 6-quart KitchenAid and 7-quart Viking mixers, and they are absolutely my new favorite thing. Every baker that uses a stand mixer will want one of these blades – trust me. The company makes BeaterBlade+ to fit several sizes of the mixer brands listed above. They're available locally at national kitchenware stores and Faraday's Kitchen Store. The buyer at Breed & Co. assures me she'll have them any day now. – Virginia B. Wood
I'm not sure of the distinction between gadget and tool, but I do know that one of the most versatile implements in my batterie de cuisine is my Zyliss silicon-tipped tongs. All tongs have myriad uses in a busy kitchen, but the highly heat-resistant, nonscratching, angled silicon tips make all the difference. On grill or stove top, they grasp meat and vegetables without piercing as metal tips can do, and the conveniently locking silicon handles guard your hand from the heat. Available for $12-15 at Breed & Co. or online, these are a thoughtful gift for a serious cook. – MM Pack
Another ideal kitchen gift is the Ove Glove, which looks like a thick winter glove but is made of the space-age fireproof materials Kevlar and Nomex, normally used in professional fire-fighting gear. The Ove Glove cannot burn or melt and is safe up to 480 degrees. Textured with silicon, it's nonslip and allows you to use all your fingers, granting much greater dexterity than a traditional mitt. It's only drawback is that it feels so normal that you might occasionally think you still have it on when you don't. Ouch! These are $18.88 at Breed & Co. and also available at many chain retailers. – Kate Thornberry
Cake/Cookie Decorating Tips & Bags
For the person on your list who bakes cakes and cookies, the deluxe decorating-tip set from Wilton is a treat. With these sturdy metal tips, one can unlock the secret of the basket weave and other artful icing designs. This deluxe set has all the tips to make beautiful, creative iced cakes and cookies. The set is $28.59 and includes 26 tips plus a tip coupler and a plastic storage case. Don't forget to also buy disposable or reusable decorating bags. Available online at www.wilton.com and locally at the All in One Bake Shop. – Rachel Feit
Five-spice powder, garam masala, Moroccan spice mix, herbes de Provence: These are essential elements in many traditional recipes. But let's face it folks, few of us have the time to grind herbs and spices using the traditional mortar and pestle. These days, the best way to make delicious, authentic-tasting global cuisine is to have an electric spice grinder. Both Krups and Cuisinart make excellent electric grinders designed for spices and herbs for $29.95. Breed & Co. carries both models, as well as smaller, less expensive versions. – R.F.
This little spouted gizmo separates fat from pan drippings and stocks so that sauces, gravies, and soups are leaner, healthier, and less likely to separate. Just pour liquid into the cup and let it stand for 30 minutes to let the fat rise to the top. The spout pours liquid from the bottom, leaving the fat behind. Williams-Sonoma sells 2- and 4-cup glass versions for $24 and $28 that also come with a strainer that attaches to the top. Many other brands are available. – R.F.
AlcoHAWK Slim Digital Alcohol Detector
Drinking and driving is bad for all. People can get hurt, and you can get into a lot of trouble with the law. This little pocket-sized Breathalyzer can give you a good heads-up about your ability to drive. We tried this out at a party with three couples (AlcoHAWK includes three replaceable, washable mouthpieces), and several of the people who felt they could drive without impairment ended up over the legal limit (0.08% blood-alcohol content). That's not uncommon. In fact, one in our party was dangerously over the limit at 0.23% and said he felt fine and would not hesitate to drive (though he didn't). There are seven steps to get an accurate reading, and the device must be recalibrated annually, but for anyone who drinks and drives, the AlcoHAWK is an important tool. Available at Walgreens and CVS stores for $49.99 or online at www.q3i.com. – Wes Marshall
Vinturi essential Wine Aerator
This funny little device is built on the Bernoulli's Principle's application to fluid dynamics, which states that if you run a liquid through a rotor, it increases the velocity and reduces the pressure. Vinturi's inventor claims this produces a change in the wine similar to letting it breathe, but it's immediate. I'll attest it does soften the flavors and mouthfeel. The Vinturi works better with current vintage wines than antiques. Spending $40 on a weird little wine device might seem like a lot, but those who mostly drink recently bought wine might be surprised at how much better it tastes through the Vinturi. Available online at www.vinturi.com. – W.M.
Chef’n Flexicado Avocado Slicer
This little gizmo from Chef’n is ideal if you have an avocado to slice into eight picture-perfect slices, which you can use as-is or dice or mash if needed. Made of dishwasher-safe nylon, it looks like an elongated loop with eight kid-friendly “blades,” all attached to a handle. You cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, and with one smooth motion, scoop the flesh from end to end with no waste. It works best with medium to large avocados; with smaller fruit, you have to squeeze the loop to fit. Available for $5.99 at Sears, Amazon, and others. – Mick Vann
Test Tubes for Spices
Nothing works better for a spice rack than glass test tubes with sealed lids, all sitting in a stainless-steel rack. I recommend the Pyrex 25-millimeter-by-200-millimeter with screw-top lid and white marking spot. This tube holds a surprising one-third cup, plenty large for the home chef. I mark each with a numbered ingredient code and keep a corresponding key sheet handy. Fill them as needed from the bulk herb and spice section at Central Market (the cheapest way to buy fresh spices). Racks fitting this size tube come in assorted colors and configurations, or you can choose a different size. – M.V.
Electric Meat Grinder
Cabela’s is home base to the sausage-making hunter, and nobody knows grinding meat better. The $99.99 Heavy-Duty Meat Grinder – with an all-metal head and tray, three different-sized grinding plates, and a reverse function – will cruise through 2 pounds per minute. The $169.99 stainless Pro Grinder costs a little more, grinds faster, and comes with all of the sausage-stuffing attachments. You can’t imagine how fantastic a freshly ground burger made from rib eye, brisket, and a little smoked bacon tastes, and there is no limit to the different sausages that you can dream up. Every kitchen needs one! Cabela’s in Buda or www.cabelas.com. – M.V.
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