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Stocking Stuffers for Home Cooks

Christmas time is here, and I spend way more time than I should trying to pick out perfect gifts for my family.
Or, at least ones that don’t get a “Oh…that’s great. Thanks.” while they check the box to make sure I included the receipt.

How about you? Looking for an inexpensive gift your favorite home cook will actually use? Here are five kitchen gadgets that I’ve picked up in the last year or so.
Plus a plug for my favorite Japanese wine comic book. Had to throw that one in there.

1. Collapsible mini strainer
It doesn’t seem like a big deal – a small, collapsible silicone strainer. But it’s perfect for all the little jobs in the kitchen that need a quick rinse and drain. My favorite use for it is soaking minced onion that I plan on using raw, like in a salsa. The water rinses away some of the strong onion flavor.

2. Bird’s beak paring knife
I know I’m supposed to cut directly on a cutting board. But, every now and again, I just want to trim something free-handed. If you’re the kind of person who laughs in the face of danger, you want one of these knives. The slight curve to the blade makes it perfect for pinching between your cutting hand and thumb.

3. Non- pressure lid for a pressure cooker
The regular, non-pressure lid for a pressure cooker is a useful accessory. It lets me use my pressure cooker as a regular pot on the stove top. My 12 quart PC is the biggest pot I own. I use it when I am canning, and need a huge pot of boiling water. Also, I like to put stews in the refrigerator overnight, letting the fat float to the top and solidify, and allowing the stew’s flavors to mingle. I want to keep the pot covered when I do that, and I don’t want to use the locking pressure lid to do it.

4. Progressive International Canning Funnel
It looks like nothing more than a sturdy, wide mouthed canning funnel. But the big improvement is the measurement lines on the funnel itself. You can tell at a glance how much head space is left in the jar. It’s a simple thing, but it makes canning that much easier.

5. Wine Barrel Wood Staves
Here is my favorite smoking wood – foot long pieces of oak from used wine barrels. When they burn, they give off the fermenting aroma of a winery to go with the wood smoke. They take me back to all the winery tours I’ve taken over the years, looking out over the wine barrels and fermenting tanks.

6. Drops of God
Wine manga. Yes, a Japanese comic book about wine tasting. This comic had a huge influence on wine sales in Japan when it was published. These are the English translation, and I love them. Not so much for the specific wines, but for the whole attitude about wine, how to find it, why it is worth obsessing over. The comic started out very French wine-centric, and I get the impression the English translation wasn’t selling as well as they hoped. The Japanese rights owner demanded the publisher skip ahead in the story to the California wine edition.  I bought my copy, but I’m sitting on it, and not planning on reading it until the intervening issues are released. If they are released…I’m holding my breath, because I really want to know how the story ends.

And…have I mentioned my rotisserie grilling cookbook recently? It makes a great gift for the grilling fanatic in your life.

Disclaimer: I am not receiving any compensation from the manufacturer(s) for this post. I bought all the items with my own money, and I use these tools every day in the kitchen. I would hate to live without them. If you buy something through the Amazon.com links on my site I get a small commission from the purchase. Thank you!
(OK, I’m good with the FCC now.)

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

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Filed under: Ramblings


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.

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