Gift Guide Archives

Kitchen Stuff: The Starter Kitchen Gift Guide

Kitchen Equipment Round Up

In small kitchens, I sometimes think useful gifts trump all other gifts.

For much of this year, I’ve been posting about the tools that are essential in my small kitchen, the (soon-to-be) complete collection of things you’ll need to cook great meals. There really aren’t that many–we’re talking about small kitchens, after all. But there are some pots, pans, utensils, and gadgets that will help make your kitchen a place you love, so why not give or get some of them this Christmas?

To spare you a slog through the archives, I’m reposting a dozen of my kitchen essentials, with brand recommendations and links pointing you to buy.

ROW #1: Cuisinart Mini-Prep Food Processor | OXO Stainless Mixing Bowls | Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

ROW #2: Emile Henry 9-Inch Pie DishLodge Cast Iron Skillet | 5 1/2-Quart Le Creuset Dutch Oven

ROW #3: OXO Fine Mesh Strainer | Sturdy All-Clad Colander | OXO Pasta Spoon

ROW #4: OXO Good Grips Cutting Boards | Non-Stick Frying PanDeLonghi Kmix Kettle

P.S. Last year’s edible gift guide.

Edible Holiday Gifts for the Small Kitchen Dweller

Gift Guide Round-Up2

The small kitchen-dwelling food lover is a curious beast. We love to cook, so your inclination is to gift us great kitchen equipment or the newest cookbooks. But since we’re also short on space, we might not know where to store the latest gadget.

That’s why gourmet food gifts can be the best way to go! For one, you’re giving us the experience of dining on delicacies we might not ever buy for ourselves. And second, we don’t have to make permanent space in our cabinets or pantries for your lovely gifts. A win all around. Below, a round up of mouthwatering treats, from ham to coffee, for your favorite quarter-lifer.

Gift in a Jar: Poached Pears

Our first-ever BGSK gift guide highlights eight days of presents we know you want to give and receive. To cut through the cluttered shelves of kitchen-oriented goodies, we’re spending eight days showing you the best of the best of the kitchen goodies to wrap up for or unwrap on Hanukkah and Christmas.

Today is Day #8—Gifts in a Jar: Poached Pears.

In our world, the edible gift is an obvious choice in the roster of kitchen-y gifts. But you can’t gift the mundane; no soups, stews, or salads here. You can give a jar of hot fudge, fry up an exquisite breakfast, or offer up an entire dinner feast. The common thread between these and other great gifts is the care that goes in. Thought counts here.

Poached pears look rustic and gorgeous in the hipster’s favorite presentation: the mason jar. Reminiscent of the good old canned pear of our youths, these halved fruits are flavored with hints of lemon and orange, and each jar is garnished with a cinnamon stick, which also imparts its flavor.

And poached pears are a joy to use up, provided the recipient likes fruit. Spoon them over vanilla ice cream, or bake them into this delightful cake. Best of all, use the syrup in champagne (or other!) cocktails for a delicate pear touch.

Plus, isn’t there something in that Christmas song about a partridge in a pear tree?

From our kitchen, albeit small, to yours,

Cara & Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOKS

**Recipe**


Poached Pears with Orange Zest and Cinnamon
Makes about 5 pints

I am not going to endeavor to teach you about canning. It’s not hard, it’s just that you have to be precise–about acidity and about sterilization. If you’re interested in preserving these, check out the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

Ingredients
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 cup water
6 pounds Bartlett pears, peeled, halved, cored, and tossed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half

In a stockpot, combine the sugar, honey, and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar and the honey. When the water boils, add the pear halves and the orange zest. Cook just until the pears are tender, about 8 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and lemon juice.

Place 1 cinnamon stick half in each jar. Scoop the pears into all five jars, then use a ladle to pour all the syrup over the pears. Screw on the lids and let the jars come to room temperature (or process them in a hot water bath). If you haven’t processed them, transfer to the fridge.

To gift, cut out a circle of pretty fabric. Secure it around the lid with a piece of ribbon. Add a little card that lists the ingredients and instructs the recipient to keep refrigerated.

Cookbooks for Everyone on Your List

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Our first-ever BGSK gift guide highlights eight days of presents we know you want to give and receive. To cut through the cluttered shelves of kitchen-oriented goodies, we’re spending eight days showing you the best of the best of the kitchen goodies to wrap up for or unwrap on Hanukkah and Christmas.

Today is Day #7–Cookbooks for Everyone on Your List.

We love cookbooks. Cookbooks represent constant inspiration, beautiful food pictures, and new and inviting ways of re-envisioning your favorite foods. Not to mention, they look great crammed onto your shelves–who needs interior design when you have books?

When you give a cookbook to a friend or family member for the holidays, you’re giving them more than paper, ink, and cardboard. You’re giving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. For an entire year.

To make a single cookbook into a full-on gift package, check out the ingredients and pin a couple (like a bag of chocolate chips or a bunch of spices) to the wrapped gift.

We could browse cookbooks all day! But here, we’ve reduced our list to a few favorites, organized by the lucky person you’re shopping for. Here’s what to get.

**Cookbooks for Everyone on Your List**

For the mom who whipped up the best dinners for you, your siblings, and your friends:
How to Eat Supper and How to Eat Weekends by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift.
This brilliant pair of books by a brilliant pair of writers tackles seemingly simple dining dilemmas, like eating well and simply every night, with the kind of poise mom has, that the rest of us hope to attain. Little twists on classic flavors make these books go-to’s every time.

For the gourmet vegetarian recent grad on a bit of a budget:
Vegetarian Suppers by Deborah Madison.
Deborah Madison’s been a master of her trade–vegetarian cooking–for years. But this little book is filled with dinner recipes that are totally accessible, rarely expensive, and as worthy of serving a crowd as they are perfect for eating with roommates in front of the TV. An entire chapter gets creative with eggs–the budget-conscious vegetarian’s dream.

For the beginner cook who wants to conquer the kitchen from every angle:
How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman (plus the app!)
This is food, from start to finish. Bittman’s masterpiece runs from basic to involved, touching on everything from simple hors d’oevures to the nuances of cooking fish and meat. The app means that he’ll also have the ability to search recipes by ingredient or course, and to cook on the go, should he ever find himself in a hungry bind when far away from that brick of a book.

For the sibling who travels (and eats) adventurously:
The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert.
One of the best trips of my life was to Morocco. I came home haunted (in a good way) by the flavors of the country’s foods, cooking chickpeas, chicken, and sandwiches in a Moroccan style. Paula Wolfert is the real expert on North African cuisine, and we’ve cooked from her 1973 classic, Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco. We can’t wait to get our hands on this latest version, which came out in October.

For your Jewish mother, grandmother, or aunt (or for any non-Jewish friend who’s dating a Jew):
Jewish Cooking in America by Joan Nathan.
It’s the time of year for latkes and gelt, so what better time to give someone the tools to make perfect brisket? With over 10 cookbooks to her name, Joan Nathan has truly become the mother of Jewish cooking. The expanded version of Jewish Cooking in America includes 335 kosher recipes, old and new, and is a must-have for anyone who hosts or celebrates the Jewish holidays.

For the college student who craves something spicier than dining hall lasagna:
5 Spices, 50 Dishes by Ruta Kahate.
This BGSK favorite gives the home cook, and even the undergrad chef, the gift of homemade Indian food without an insane amount of fuss. Where most Indian dishes call for tons of different spices, often freshly ground, 5 Spices, 50 Dishes uses just five (duh!) to create an epic assortment of flavors and dishes within reach of those with limit pantries.

For the recently engaged pal who’s suddenly dreaming of nesting:
Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten
Though Family Style has a certain retro air when compared to How Easy is That? it’s the perfect tome for fantasizing about simple yet impressive entertaining, the kind of entertaining she’ll do when the small kitchen is a thing of the past, elegant suburbanites are coming over for supper, and little kiddies prance around the renovated kitchen.

For the parents who are still desperately trying to get their kids to sit through a meal:
The Family Dinner by Laurie David
We both grew up in families that made nightly meals together around the table a non-negotiable. But these days with everyone as busy as they are, there are so many factors preventing people from making family dinners a regular routine. When Laurie David set out to write her first cookbook, her goal was to help America’s overwhelmed families sit down to a family dinner, and she provides all the reasons, recipes, and fun tools to do so, one meal at a time. We chatted with Laurie last year about her own family traditions, and you can find out more about them and the book here.

For the urban grillmaster:
BBQ USA by Steven Raichlen
Never mind that this city dweller may be cooking on a mini Weber on somebody’s fire escape, or even on a grill pan. The BBQ aficionado needs the real deal, and Raichlen’s book contains fabulous recipes for regional Southern BBQ, from chicken to cornbread, brisket to pulled pork. Some can be made in the oven–just evoke a barbecue with your decor, and your fellow urbanites might not even know.

For the the foodie who’d really rather go out to eat than cook or bake at home:
Baked or Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.
These two books, by the guys from Baked in Red Hook, profile a series of extraordinary desserts, most of the down-home American variety. Though the majority of the recipes here are perfectly accessible to the accomplished home baker, the books are just as well used as deliciously entertaining coffee table reads. The photos are whimsical, and the stories of sweets are enticing. (A purchased Baked brownie or cookie makes a great addition to this gift!)

For everyone you’ve ever met:
In the Small Kitchen by Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine.
Obviously!

(For more recommendations, check out Lily’s guide to the best starter cookbooks.)

The 7 Best Giftable Food Activities

Our first-ever BGSK gift guide highlights eight days of presents we know you want to give and receive. To cut through the cluttered shelves of kitchen-oriented goodies, we’re spending eight days showing you the best of the best of the kitchen goodies to wrap up for or unwrap on Hanukkah and Christmas.

Today is Day #6–The 7 Best Giftable Food Activities.

There are food gifts like boxes of chocolate bark that can fit inside a stocking, and then there are those that are simply explained in a card. Who says the best presents have to be material things? For food lovers, experiential gifts are sometimes the most thoughtful, creative, and appreciated.

What also makes food activities such great gifts is that you get to do something together. They are also great go-to’s for people who have everything or are otherwise impossible to buy for. If you’re thinking about going this route for the Christmakkah season, here are some of our favorite giftable food activities to give you some inspiration.

**Favorite Food Activity Gifts**

1. Neighborhood tour. Most cities are packed with interesting ethnic pockets that make eating your way through a geographical area fun, interesting, and exotic. You can design your own itinerary, but you might find a tour company that specializes in food excursions that are exactly what you’re looking for. New York, in particular, has plenty. You can explore Chinatown, sampling Peking duck and dumplings while taking in some interesting cultural facts along the way.  Other neighborhoods, like Nolita, have much more of a range of foods to taste. There’s the old world pies in Little Italy, but also all-American bakeries, Mexican cafes, and more!

2. Food category tour. Most cities are famous for something. In New York, it’s pizza (though Chicago would probably disagree). Give a gift designed around tasting the best offering of your city’s specialty. In NYC, Scott’s Pizza Tour is renowned. But you can always design your own, or center a tour in less well-charted food terrain—cookies, nachos, bahn mi, meatballs, food truck goodies, you name it! Hint: go hungry.

3. Favorites tour. Instead of taking an organized food tour, go rogue and show someone you love all of your favorite things to eat around town by taking them on a journey to all your foodie finds. Check out this post to help you map your favorite foods and eat on the go. Print out a map for your loved one and enclose it in a card, then plan when you’re going to match your adventure.

4. Pair food with another type of activity. It doesn’t just have to be just about the meal. Pair a themed restaurant with another type of activity—a movie, a play, or a baseball game. You can even create your own movie marathon, with a different dish or treat that correlates to each movie you’ll watch. Go to Koreatown and eat kimchi followed by karaoke. Go to a restaurant for soul food before seeing the Broadway show “Memphis.” There are a million creative pairings you can create.

5. Cooking class. Though this route takes the least amount of advance planning (and the most amount of cash), you can still get creative with what type of cooking class to give as a gift. Choose something wacky or obscure that your loved one would have never thought to take. A candy making class, anyone? The bigger cooking schools like ICE in New York have a whole range of classes to choose from. You can also think outside the box. Get the chef from one of your favorite restaurants to come to your home and teach you a few tricks, or see about getting permission to go behind the scenes in an actual restaurant kitchen. You can even teach someone how to make your own signature dish: pizza, maybe, or layer cakes.

6. Scavenger hunt. Want to go really all out? Instead of planning a food tour of your favorites, plan it around theirs. Set up a scavenger hunt around the city that will result in a very drawn out 5 course meal. Start early, and instruct your loved one to meet you at a restaurant. Share a small appetizer and a paired cocktail, then give them the first clue. From now on, you’ll have enlisted the help of friends to meet them at the next 3 restaurants. If you call ahead, there might even be the possibility of coercing the chef into participating in the scheme. By the end of the evening, your loved one will have cruised around to 5 different dishes at 5 different restaurants, and eaten with some of their closest friends along the way. Meet back up at the 5th restaurant and hear all about the experience over dessert. This is elaborate, but it sure does make for a memorable gift.

7. Destination eating. Maybe Napa’s out of range, but if there’s a restaurant you’ve been eying, take a day and make a pilgrimage there. Bonus points if your choice is near public transportation. Consider Long Island and Westchester if you’re a New Yorker. If you’re looking to really get away for a meal, our recommendation is the The Angry Trout in faraway Grand Marais, MN. And, there’s always Paris.

(BONUS) 8. A special home cooked meal. Perhaps the simplest, but most heartwarming option is a home cooked meal at your apartment. Here are some tips on how to make this everyday occurrence, into a really special gift.

Our 5 Favorite Kitchen Ready-to-Wear Items (and a Giveaway!)

Our first-ever BGSK gift guide highlights eight days of presents we know you want to give and receive. To cut through the cluttered shelves of kitchen-oriented goodies, we’re spending eight days showing you the best of the best of the kitchen goodies to wrap up for or unwrap on Hanukkah and Christmas.

Today is Day #3–all about foodie stuff you can wear.

Now that we’ve been food blogging for three years and change, we’ve come to have almost as many frilly aprons hanging in our closet as we do party dresses. And who are we to complain? You really can never have too many fun, girly items that make you feel both chic and capable in the kitchen.

Since aprons seem to be just as popular a gift for food lovers as food writers like ourselves, we thought we’d share some of our favorite brands with you, as well as other fabulous ready-to-wear kitchen presents that we’ve received over the years.

For a chance to win one of these fashionable items for yourself, read on!

**5 Kitchen Ready-to-Wear Items**

1. Anthropologie Aprons. You might have noticed by now by the pictures in our book and on our about page that we’re a little bit obsessed with Anthropologie’s colorful aprons. We each have several styles, but we’re partial to cute frilly ones like this. There’s such a variety to choose from, you can get each of your foodie friends one that really matches their individual style.

2. EatGourmet Personalized Chef’s Hat. Two and a half years ago when we finally got around to throwing our blog launch party, our friend Mike arrived with gifts in tow. What did he have for us quarter-life cooks? Why, two customized chef’s hats of course! Though we’ve only worn them for silly pictures, our “Cara” and “Phoebz” toques really help us dress the part.

3. IceMilk DIY Apron Gift Packages. These whimsical aprons have cute names like “frosty tin marshmallow” and “bowls of batterchild.” The gift package includes a full apron, custom monogram, unique heirloom kit, 25 blank recipe cards all perfectly packaged within a preserves jar. If you want to go the customized route, IceMilk also offers monogramming options that they’ll apply to any of the full apron styles.

4. Totally Retro Foodie Jewelry. For your hipster bud who loves to cook (or is an elementary school librarian), brightly painted, slightly tacky, food-themed jewelry is a hilarious little gift. Ice cream is a popular motif on Etsy; we like to imagine that these pink cones ($7.99) are topped with mint chocolate chip. If you’re going savory, pick these dangly glass bacon and eggs. Adorably tiny apple stud earrings ($15) are a little less out there, and they don’t make the wearer seem like such an obvious foodie diehard she’d wear macaroni around her neck. This baking-supply necklace ($18) also stands a chance of blending in with other jewelry.

5. ModCloth “If You Can’t Stand the Hoot” Apron and Pot Holder Set . Sure, we don’t wear our oven mitts around our apartment quite as often as we wear our real mittens outside of it. But with delightful designer oven mitts and holders like these adorable ones from Modcloth, we just might! We want to look just as fashionable when we take things out of the oven and bring them to the table, as we do when we’re sitting at it, and it’s important to have a whole outfit that matches.

For a chance to win the “If you Can’t Stant the Hoot” Apron and Pot Holder Set from Modcloth, you must:

  • Leave a comment below and tell us what you’re giving your foodie loved ones this holiday season.
  • Be a subscriber to our newsletter
  • Become a fan of our Facebook Page
  • (Extra Entry) Tell your facebook fans about the contest – share the giveaway post from the BGSK wall on your own
  • (Extra Entry) Tweet about this contest @BGSK
  • (Two Extra Entries!) Buy our book online (it’s the best gift anyway!!) and forward the purchase email confirmation to bgsk@biggirlssmallkitchen.com

We’ll announce the randomly selected winner next week on the blog. Good luck!

From our kitchen, albeit small, to yours,

Cara & Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOKS