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Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? I haven’t, but I’m getting close.
This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but I’m giving some cooking-related gifts to both of my children this year. They’ve done the same for me over the years.
I like to encourage my children to cook and enjoy finding the perfect kitchen gifts for them.
Quite often, I ask for kitchen gifts as well — whether it’s cookbooks, food magazine subscriptions, aprons or gadgets.
I thought I’d give you a few last-minute ideas for the cooks (whether novice or experienced) on your shopping list.
• Although I enjoy reading cooking websites and blogs and finding recipes on Pinterest, I still enjoy a good cookbook. I especially enjoy cookbooks that include the story behind the recipes. I usually try a few recipes from new cookbooks. I just received a new cookbook at work that I recommend to anyone who likes homemade yeast breads. “Ready, Set Dough! Beginner Breads for all Occasions” is by Rebecca Lindamood and includes several very basic recipes that take an hour (or maybe a little more) to make. I made a loaf of bread Sunday night in 72 minutes. It was delicious. Also included in the book are recipes for specialty breads such as cinnamon raisin bagels, pretzel-wrapped little smoked sausages, and toastable English muffin bread. Can’t wait to try that one. The cookbook includes more than 75 recipes and goes on sale Dec. 17.
• Every year, my husband puts a magazine or specialized food publication in my Christmas stocking. While we are standing in the checkout line at grocery stores, I will often point out a publication and tell him I’d like to have it. These specialized magazines often focus on a season or topic, such as slow cooker recipes, one-pan meals or winter soups and stews. The magazines are usually less expensive than the average cookbook.
• I bought myself a gift a few weeks ago. I really wanted a second mixer bowl and a backup beater for my KitchenAid stand mixer. The beaters have been on sale several times during the holidays. If you purchase either one, just make sure you buy the correct size for the stand mixer. I look forward to having the backups when I start my Christmas cooking.
• Bag clips make great stocking stuffers, I think. We seem to struggle at my house when we need to find a bag clip for the potato chips or cookie bags. There are so many kinds out there, some just practical and others more decorative. Last year, I gave my daughter and son-in-law bag clips that feature dachshunds.
• Speaking of dogs, pet lovers would probably love kitchen hand towels that feature their favorite animal. Seasonal dish towels are also nice. My secret Santa left a very pretty Christmas towel on my desk this morning. I can’t wait to take it home and put it to use.
• Maybe there’s a new food item you’ve tried that you think someone else would enjoy. Last year, my sister gave me flavored oil and vinegar from Olive and Then Some, a shop in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Susan purchased basil infused olive oil and peach white balsamic vinegar for me. My husband and I really enjoyed making salad dressings with the oil and vinegar. A few weeks ago, Godiva sent me samples of chocolate chips that I used to make the yummy chocolate chip cookie recipe on the bag. I always welcome gifts like this!
• Many kitchen utensils are a good fit for stockings. Consider a set of colorful tongs, a pastry or marinade brush, a meat thermometer or some pretty potholders. My sister, who’s always finding fun gifts, gave me a colorful measuring spoon handcrafted from wood. It features a tablespoon on one end and a teaspoon on the other end. I keep it on top of my sugar canister and think of her when I use it.
• I drink hot tea many mornings and love when someone gives me a new tea to try. Pick up an extra box of your favorite tea and give it as a gift. If you are shopping for someone who loves coffee, find a unique blend and wrap it up. Hot chocolate mixes are also very good stocking stuffers. My granddaughter loves the chocolate cubes on a stick that she can stir into hot milk to make hot chocolate.
Hope you found some good ideas to finish off that Christmas list.
Lisa Boykin Batts has been writing a weekly food column since 2001. Her column includes recipes she and her family enjoy.
Light-Speed Whole Wheat Bread
I made this bread in 72 minutes. I used my stand mixer for the kneading (4 minutes with the hook.) My family has really enjoyed it. It’s delicious fresh or the next few days as jelly toast and cinnamon toast.
4 cups (1 pound, 1 ounce or 482 g by weight) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
2 cups (9 ounces or 255 g by weight) whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
2 tablespoons (24 g) instant or active dry yeast
2 tablespoons (25 g) sugar
1 tablespoon (18 g) kosher salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons (9 g) table salt
2 cups (480 ml) very warm water (about 120 degrees)
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
Mix the flours, yeast, sugar, salt, water and olive oil in a large mixing bowl with a sturdy spoon until a shaggy dough forms, then knead until the dough comes together and becomes smooth, about 4 minutes by hand or machine. Form a smooth dough ball. Return dough to the bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and let it rise in a warm place for 15 minutes.
Divide the dough in half and form into two tight dough balls or loaf shapes. You can place the balls or loaves directly on the rimmed baking sheet or in standard-size loaf pans. Press down gently to flatten them, then dust a teaspoon of flour over each loaf, rubbing with your hands to distribute the flour. Slash the tops of the loaves three times.
Place the loaves in the middle of a cold oven with a pan of hot tap water on the rack below it. Close the oven, set the heat on 400 degrees and set the timer for 40 minutes. It is imperative that you start this in a cold oven.
After 40 minutes, remove the bread from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before slicing.
“Ready, Set, Dough!” By Rebecca Lindamood.