Your 2012 Healthy Kitchen Gift Buyer’s Guide –
With the Holidays just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about that special someone. Why wait until New Year’s to start being a little bit healthier in the kitchen? Cooking is hard enough as it is, let alone doing it without a lot of extra fat. Below are some healthy cooking gift ideas for the home cook plus an idea of how much it would cost to unwrap a smile this holiday season. (to maintain an unbiased approach to gift giving I’ve removed any brand names from the list)
For the Beginning Cook – everybody has to start somewhere, whether you can barely boil water, or finally just figured out where to shove everything in your cabinets, these items deserve a spot in your kitchen.
#1. Non-Stick Pan – nothing cuts the fat from a meal like a good nonstick pan. Teflon is versatile and cheap and perfect for electric and ceramic stovetops. Use caution with gas stoves as Teflon can bubble under extreme heat and chip; avoid using metallic utensils to keep the finish clean and scratch free. If you are concerned about residue from nonstick surfaces, look into anodized aluminum pans; they are a bit more expensive, and slightly less nonstick, but they are a great way to cook on all stovetop types. 9-12 inch recommended, $25 – $200.
#2. Blender – whether you like smoothies, soups, bisques, sauces or *ahem* cocktails, nothing makes adding fruits and vegetables to your menu like a good old-fashioned blender. Many blenders even now come with travel mug attachments to make drinking healthy on the go even easier. $18 – $69.
#3. Wooden Cutting Board – If you are going to be chopping vegetables, you better have something sturdy to do it on. Plastic and acrylic cutting boards are functional, but are hard on knives (they dull more quickly) and can slide around on a countertop. A good quality wooden cutting board will make prepping feel like a breeze and will last a lifetime if you treat it right. $40 – $150.
#4. Box Grater – probably one of the cheapest items on the list, but one of the most important. If you’ve only used this contraption for cheese you are missing out on the great additions to salads, breads, soups, roasts, stir fry’s and sautés. A box grater is perfect for any semi-to-firm vegetables like carrots, zucchini, beets, cucumber, onions, celery root, potatoes, etc. $10 – $14.
For the Bold Cook – if your special cook can tell the difference between a Russet and a Yukon, it might be time to add one of these versatile tools to your culinary repertoire.
#5. High Quality Knives – if it can cut through a can, pop open a can of paint, chop firewood and all without ever needing to be sharpened, it’s probably not a high quality knife. A high quality knife needs to be honed and sharpened; hand washed and well cared for. Look for one made by Germans, Japanese, Australian, or any other maker who “folds” the metal of the blade, avoid ceramic knives. Recommended 7 – 9 inch Chef or Santuku style Blade. $100 – $300.
#6. Slow Cooker – your Mom probably has a Slow Cooker, her Mom probably had one; so why should you get one? Because they are a no-muss, no-fuss time-saver of a deliciousness! Perfect for soups, stews, chili, braises and roasts, load it full of fresh vegetables and a lean cut of meat and call me in 6-hours. It’s always good. Recommended, Go for a 5.5qt and above. $45 – $85
#7. Countertop Mixer – Well it’s primarily used for baking, so you might be asking yourself, isn’t this a cooking healthy list? Whole grain breads, rolls, pizza shells, and low fat muffins and cookies are all part of the healthy home cook’s playbook. Plus many countertop mixers support attachments for anything from making fresh pasta to grinding your own meat. $250 – $400.
#8. Panini Grill – it’s the perfect way to cut the fat and cut down the cooking time of most anything. From grilled sandwiches, to grilled vegetables, to any kind of indoor grilling all year round. It might take up some extra room on the countertop, but the low-fat flavor is well worth it. $35 – $200.
#9. Heavy Bottom Roasting Pan – No kitchen is complete without a great roasting pan. Whether you like a lean pork loin roast or a whole turkey, a sturdy pan is essential. A thick bottom helps to brown vegetables and can be placed directly on the stovetop to reduce roasting juices into fantastic low fat sauces. $60 – $100.
For the Brave Cook – these gifts might cost a little bit more, but for the serious cook, the extra time and effort that goes into healthy cooking will be well worth it.
#10. Pressure Cooker – is definitely not for the timid cook. What’s great about cooking under pressure is that foods cook quick; think less than half the time. If you like to make soup stocks, beans from scratch or anything with delicious flavor, you need one of these versatile pots. Don’t worry about blowing up your kitchen either, all pressure cookers have safety valves. $75 – $175.
#11. Cast Iron Skillet – Keeping your cast iron skillet in top shape can take some effort, but if you’ve got the time to season the pan properly, it will never let you down. Cooking in cast iron is a great way to add extra iron to your diet, and get some great flavor. Cast iron works best on gas and electric stoves, but you can always shove the pan in the oven and use it as a “dutch oven” if you are cursed with a ceramic cook top. $25 – $75.
#12. CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Membership – For a seasonal gift that keeps on giving long past the holidays, looking into a local CSA. Not only is it a great way to get the very best of your growing regions freshest fruits and vegetables, but it supports your local farmers too! Most CSAs will deliver straight to your door. It’s a great gift for your adventurous cook. Prices Vary.
#13. Salad Spinner – Your seasonally delivered vegetables will probably need a little extra cleaning. Having a salad spinner in the kitchen is a great way to cut down on prep time. $15 – $30.
Stocking Stuffers – it’s not easy finding that perfect gift, but below are some no fail ideas perfect for cooks of any skill level. Most are under $15.
Rubber Spatulas and Thongs – Keeping that nonstick skillet well maintained and chip free is a lot harder to do without a rubber or silicon spatula. They are also great for soups and stews; salads too!
Spoon Holder – Tasting is the most important part of cooking, and having a clean place to put down a spoon or a fork is a must have for a tidy kitchen.
Garnishing Kit – Most people have a vegetable peeler; but a microplane, a zester, channel knife or melon-baller are great tools to carve vegetables and fruits or spice up the flavor of any dish.
Corkscrew – Wine adds a lot of flavor and acidity to dishes, and is a great way to kick a dish up to the next level without adding salt or fat. If you are concerned about the alcohol, most burns off in about a half an hour.