In our family, with five kids gathered around the tree, we’ve always drawn a name out of a hat for gift-giving. But even then, my sissie and I hide away something special for each other. In recent years, that something has always had to do with the kitchen. Giving a gift of food, or a gift that encourages more time in the kitchen, makes us feel like the real present is getting together, cooking and eating.
Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy a red sweater or a glittering jewel, and still to this day neither my sister nor I would turn down a visit on Santa’s knee. But each year we try a little harder to stop the materialism madness that tries to take over our lives starting on Thanksgiving, and focus on the gift that means the most: time together, well spent. Which for us always includes time in the kitchen and at the table, making and eating something delicious.
Here are some favorite things for the kitchen that make what we do there that much more efficient, delicious, and fun (also: don’t miss my pick featured in Saveur’s Holiday Gift Guide this year! Right here.):
1. An ice cream maker and the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home book. Just an exciting gift, and it’s such a surprise to discover how simple and delectable it is to make your own ice creams and sorbets at home.
2. Tom’s Mom’s Cookies from right here in Harbor Springs (they love to ship in an adorable box!). Heat one of these bad boys up, and you are headed straight for chocolate-gooey heaven. My favorite is chocolate chunk with dried cherries. Dan and I had these on the dessert bar at our wedding, and I serve the cookies at my office-party-for-one every December (yes, it’s just me in the office. Yes, I still have a party. At least I never have to worry if the staff will like the menu).
3. A Sweetilicious Pie. You know by now that I enjoy baking my own pies as often as possible, but not everyone feels the same (so I’ve been told). In that case, order the best! Our own Michigan pie guru Linda Hundt’s Sweetilicious pies are an institution downstate, and now nationally as she sells them through Williams-Sonoma. I spent an evening baking pies with the wonderful Linda recently—what a delightful (and delicious) inspiration!
4. Olive wood bowl. I am a huge fan of all things olive wood, and I clapped (just a small, private clap, okay?) when I found this special little bowl when I was at the mothership Crate & Barrel in Chicago shopping this past fall. I keep the rustic bowl right next to the stove filled with kosher salt for easy access, a form and function home run. And the price is ever-so-right at $10, a rarity for anything made with olive wood.
5. A digital kitchen scale. So handy, and so helpful to be able to weigh ingredients for baked goods rather than measure them, for accuracy and perfect results. This one by Salter is excellent.
6. This mortar and pestle. I count myself as one who does not care much for the tedious work of mincing garlic. The mortar and pestle make quick work of that (just add salt…) and other grind jobs. Plus it’s a great-looking, ancient tool to display.
7. Parchment half-sheets. We used these at Tante Marie’s, and I always use them at home. The parchment is perfectly sized for your sheet pan, and lays perfectly flat, too.
8. Copper gratin dish. Copper whispers “your special” to its recipient. This vintage, oval-shaped, lined copper dish has a gorgeous whisper that’ll linger for years and years.
9. Wood and horn servers. Elegant servers elevate a salad so nicely. These beauties, which Peg gifted me a few years back, come from Huzza, one of our favorite shops on Main Street in Harbor Springs.
10. Scotchmallow Trees. I looooooooooooooove (and I mean LOVE) See’s chocolate-covered marshmallow caramels. Last year I had one request and one request only of my sister for Christmas and our February birthdays: boxes of these. What’s someone who shared Santa’s knee with me going to do but exactly as a sister requests? (A direct correlation to the necessity for my spring bridal boot camp) Here the candies are in the shape of a tree; they taste even better this way, don’t you think?