Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Cook with No Time
Don't have enough time in the kitchen? Take a look at our staff's favorite time-savers as a gift for yourself or a loved one.
In discussing our entries for this week, one of our contributing editors asked to include a do-ahead recipe of her own. Our thanks to Selma for sharing her Roasted Red Pepper with Salami appetizer.
A time-saving device ‘par excellence,’ the Cuisinart Smart Stick purées a soup, sauce, salad dressing, dip, etc. directly in a pot or bowl, eliminating the need to transfer the mixture to a blender. Also useful is the simple way one can control the texture with a bit more (or less) power. AND it’s much easier to see what’s happening in a wide pot or bowl as compared to a tall narrow cylinder.
The set we’ve selected here also includes a whisk attachment, a chopper/grinder attachment and a measuring beaker, making this a multi-use, yet compact, item.
Prepping is one of the most laborious and time consuming tasks in the kitchen, and chopping is the most tedious task when it comes to prepping. The Vidalia Chop Wizard helps with this task; it can chop, slice, and dice virtually any fruit or vegetable to make cooking less of a chore and more enjoyable. Even onions are a little more bearable to prepare since chopping is done quickly and all at once. All parts are also dishwasher safe, so even more time is saved during clean up.
Company is coming and you can’t imagine how you’re going to find the time to cook for them. That’s when you will reach for Sleep On It by Carol Gordon, an paperback compilation of homey recipes from innkeepers across America. All of these recipes are intended to be assembled the night before, refrigerated, and popped in the oven the next day.
The recipes are organized by course. Appetizers include classic dips and meatballs as well as easy versions of shrimp rémoulade and chicken liver pâté. Breakfast stratas (layered casseroles) — like Southwest Strata, composed of flour tortillas, refried beans, spinach, and cheese — can make a fine lunch or supper. There are dinners featuring pork loin, veal, lamb, brisket, chicken and shrimp. Dessert recipes include Vietnamese Bread Pudding, black raspberry crepes, pies, cakes, and frozen and baked fruit.
Sleep On It, first published in 2006, can be purchased for only a few dollars so you can buy a copy for yourself as well as a friend. A great gift for a novice cook, college student with a kitchen, busy parents, and that friend who has called you in a panic asking what to cook for a houseful of guests.
Many serving bowls are made just for that: serving. The advantage of these Pyrex bowls is that they can be used to serve, store, and heat food, all in the same container. The nonporous glass is designed to sustain preheated ovens, microwaves, fridges, freezers, and dishwashers, and it won’t warp, stain, or absorb odors like plastic containers often do. The lids also make storage much easier and greener since there is no need to continuously use cling wrap or tinfoil to store the food. Why use multiple containers for food when time and energy can be saved by using one?
The Instant Pot programmable multi-cooker can serve as a slow-cooker or electric pressure-cooker, and can also be used for browning, steaming, warming, and making yogurt.
It’s easy to understand why the Instant Pot has so many extremely satisfied customers. It has a heavy-duty stainless steel removable liner, easy-to-lock lid, and a handy built-in slot to hold the hot, drippy lid out of the way upon opening.
The easy-to-use control panel, and an array of pre-programmed functions for soup, poultry, stew, rice, yogurt, etc., serve to inspire. Programmed or manually set, the process is nearly effortless with magically fast results.
How convenient it is to prep, freeze, and serve in the same bowl or dish. For many years, Pyrex and Corningware dominated this market, with very functional but not necessarily pretty products. Now ceramic dishes which are attractive enough to go from oven to table – even when entertaining guests – are available from other companies. One of my favorites and most versatile is the Emile Henry set shown here.
Need boiling water in a hurry? The electric kettle by Chef’s Choice brings water to a boil about 3 times faster than a stovetop kettle and can be set to variable temperatures. It saves time when you are in need of a cup of tea, drip coffee, a quick bowl of oatmeal, even water for cooking pasta. It doesn’t take much space on the counter and is easy to keep clean.
As a hunter and gatherer, it is important to have a way to preserve what I harvest – whether it is game I have hunted, fruits that have grown on my trees, or vegetables I have tended to in my garden. A vacuum seal system is an incredible tool. I bought my first FoodSaver when my daughter was just a baby. She is looking at colleges now, so that model has served me very well.
Over the summer, with fruit trees laden with peaches and pears and a garden spilling over, I knew it was time for a new one. There are a lot more choices for vacuum sealers now than there were when I purchased my first one. I selected the Model 2840. It was larger than my last model but conveniently flips up (and locks in place) to save space. It has two speeds, options for Dry or Moist and a removable drip tray for easy cleaning. Bought as a package, it also contained bags and an accessory hose (for hard-sided accessories, when bags will not suffice).
Whether you hunt, fish, garden or just like to purchase food in bulk, this is a great item to have in any kitchen.
We’re all for cookbooks that make life easier and the America’s Test Kitchen Make-Ahead Cookbook definitely falls into that category. Designed for people who don’t necessarily have the time, energy, or inclination to cook every night of the week, this cookbook provides a bounty of delicious recipes that will keep and reheat well over the course of a work week. Directions are straightforward, easy to follow, and there are dishes appropriate for all skill levels. Best of all, you get all of the America’s Test Kitchen expertise and guidance without compromising on quality or flavor. It’s a great book for those who like to cook but who don’t have a huge amount of time. It would make a wonderful gift for the busy cook in your life.
Any cook in a hurry will appreciate a good digital thermometer that can provide a reading in a matter of seconds. Insert the tip of the Rösle thermometer for an instant reading of the temperature of meats, poultry, dairy products, and more. No more wondering whether “lukewarm” water for mixing with active yeast is the right temperature (40-43°/105-110°F) or if the steak on the grill is rare (54°/130°F) or heading toward medium (68°C/155°F).
The Rösle 16245 Digital Thermometer is attractively boxed, sleekly designed with a ring for hanging, and its satiny stainless steel has a nice feel and heft in the hand. It is easily switched between Celsius and Fahrenheit and has an illuminated screen, and shuts off automatically after 15 seconds.
Angry Mama will steam-clean your microwave in minutes!
No more scrubbing your microwave clean! Angry Mama has attitude and gets things done. This is one of those kitchen gadgets that you may, upon first glance think, Really? They’re trying to sell me a giant lego to clean my microwave?
The answer is yes, and she works. Keep Angry Mama on your kitchen counter to remind yourself she is here to help.
Angry Mama is straightforward and no-nonsense. Simply fill her with vinegar and water and place her in your microwave. As soon as you press the start button, steam will come shooting out of her head to soften and loosen whatever mess has splashed on the ceiling or walls of your microwave.
Angry Mama is made with heat-resistant materials and is dishwasher safe. She eliminates heavy-duty cleaning chemicals and cuts down your cleaning time. Whatever was stuck in your microwave will easily wipe away after 5-8 minutes – no scrubbing necessary.
After using Angry Mama once, I predict she’ll remain on your counter, hands on her hips, waiting for the next chance to blow off steam.