Updated 2011-11-18 05:18:18 ID=657:0

© 2011 The Romantic Table
©2008 The Romantic Table, Susan McGourty's Table Talk, a California Central Coast Lifestyle blog. 2011-06-09 16:33:16:80
©2008 The Romantic Table

Susan McGourty's Table Talk

Some "Foodie" Gift Ideas on a Budget

It's late November and we all are starting to hyperventilate over what to give some of our food-loving friends for Christmas. Though your budget may be big or small, here are some of my suggestions that would make a perfect gift to be welcomed into any kitchen.

Over the years I have amassed quite a number of cooking tools and gadgets.-Some good ones-some bad and some that have turned out to be VERY practical and time-savers. In reality, the ones I MOST use and are often not really thought of as gifts at first--but WOULD be appreciated by just about anyone who's a real cook that regularly rolls up her/his sleeves and enjoys the process of transforming raw ingredients into a flavorful creation. These are my favorite items that have turned out to be the most used by--and MOST appreciated tools by me.

The first item is a lifesaver that I use daily. -A selection of good-quality silicon spatulas/scrappers in different colors. I have a couple red-colored ones that I just keep for tomato-based with garlic sauces. Then I have a green-colored one for non-tomato sauces that are still pretty "opinionated." And then finally I have a couple blue-colored spatulas that are just used in baked/sweet/dessert recipes. (You surely don't want your fudge to taste like garlic!) You get the picture. Just a small selection of spatulas in different colors for the cook to keep separately for different recipe-types. A few of these will run you $10-$20 dollars, but are REALLY appreciated in an often-used kitchen!

For a few dollars more, another often used tool is a beautiful olive-wood long-handled wooden spoon for stirring risottos and stews. You can find a these spoons for as little as $13.99. They're gorgeous to look and hold/feel and MOST importantly use and keep the cook's hand cool while stirring long-cooking sauces and foods.

For about $20.00 you could give them a colorful selection of"fun-looking" to use hot-pot holders that are PRACTICAL with not too much thickness or ends that could catch fire.

Going up the dollar amount to about $30. is the Benriner Japanese Mandoline Slicer. If your cook-lover recipient loves recipes that require very thin slicing, the Benriner is "the ticket!" Even Mario Batali on the "Iron Chef" used the humble Benriner as one of his tools when he could afford a much more expensive (though not necessarily any better!) one. We have tried several mandoline slicers, and the most practical and easy to store is the Benriner. We use ours regularly!

For a few dollars more -about $40., if your cook-friend doesn't have a junior-sized Cuisinart food-processor, the Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus is a great gift. it really saves time chopping garlic, small-medium amounts of onions and other foods and it fits into the dishwasher!

If your budget is a little bigger -say $ 50- $70 dollars, a Henckel Stainless Steel Tomato Serrated Utility 5 inch knife is very appreciated by anyone that likes and uses tomatoes in different recipes.

Then finally one of the nicest gifts that we've ever received is the Breville Panini Press. We love ours so much so that if your budget can afford it,(it's $119.) it makes an ideal gift--and we've given these as bridal and birthday gifts to those special someones. Until we received ours, we hadn't realized just how practical--and FUN to use!--this small appliance is! Williams-Sonoma has the best one (feature-wise) on the market.

Well there you have it. Some ideas to get you thinking of these and other possibilities for your cook-friend. Most of us are on budgets these days especially! You don't have to blow them away with expensive "toys" just think HOW they would use your item and it's the thought that really counts! Happy shopping!

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A tip from Sue!

Cooking with onions and garlic

When your recipe calls for both sauted onions and garlic, saute the onions first - they take longer to soften. Then when the onions are almost softened, add the garlic.The garlic doesn't need very long to become fragrant - and you don't want to burn your garlic and turn it bitter!