My Favorite Things – A Holiday Gift Guide

We all know what time it is! Tomorrow is Cyber Monday and I have the perfect list of My Favorite Things to kick off your holiday shopping.

CaliGirl Cooking | Holiday Gift Guide
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I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and got to spend lots of time with their nearest and dearest. We trekked up to the Bay Area to celebrate with BOTH of our families (gotta love that they only live 45 minutes apart!) and had such a great time having more than just a day and a half to visit (like our typical trips.) We lounged in front of the TV in our PJ’s, went and cut down our Christmas tree, cooked A TON and ate even more.

What did everyone else do for the holiday? Did you brave the mall on Black Friday or did you #optoutside and take advantage of the free admission to all of our State Parks? (Which, BTW, I think is a great idea!) I personally don’t like to brave the crazy shoppers over Thanksgiving weekend so I usually either just stick to #smallbusinesssaturday or my trusty old friend the Inter-web!

I figured some of you may be in the same boat as me so, since we are all recovering from an intense day (week? month?) of slaving away in the kitchen making (and eating) all of the foods, I decided to forego a recipe today and give you this Holiday Gift Guide instead. Don’t worry, we’ll get back to the food and drink in my next post, because LESS THAN THREE WEEKS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!

These are some of my favorite cooking and kitchen items that would all make fabulous gifts for any person in your life with just the slightest culinary interest. Whether your friend is a professional chef or your sister just needs to get dinner on the table every night for her family, there’s a Christmas gift here for them!

To help guide you along, I’ve broken my favorite gifts down into the following categories:

  • Appliances
  • Cookware & Bakeware
  • Food
  • Cookboks

And don’t worry, there’s something for every price point!

What are your favorite culinary items to gift people for the holidays? I haven’t done any of my Christmas shopping yet and I need some ideas!!

Appliances

I use my VitaMix blender every. single. day. We use it for smoothies, sauces, batters, you name it! These things are so powerful and so worth the investment.

This Cuisinart food processor is another one of my favorite multi-use kitchen appliances. It’s just as versatile as the VitaMix. You can use it for pestos, chopping up nuts, shredding cheese, grating vegetables and kneading dough.

I was beyond elated when I got the KitchenAid stand mixer for my birthday one year. This is every baker’s (and cook’s!) dream. Not only does it take away the need to mix anything by hand, it also beats egg whites to a delicious meringue, whips up fresh whipping cream, kneads dough AND comes with so many attachments you won’t know what to do with yourself (see below.)

Pasta attachments for the KitchenAid! Making homemade pasta was never so easy. Lots of different options here, and so much less trouble than a traditional pasta dough roller!

And we can’t forget the food grinder/sausage stuffer variety pack for the KitchenAid either. I’ll have to admit I haven’t tried the stuffer yet (a little intimidated by sausage casings…eek) but I love the grinder attachment to make some delicious sausage patties!

This Crockpot. It’s a lifesaver. We use it to make such things as pulled pork and clam chowder or anything we want to throw together before we go to work and have it be done by the time we get home. And it comes with the cutest little mini Crockpot! Fondue anyone?

Cookware & Bakeware

This Lodge Dutch oven is such a trooper. It has been through so much with me. I use it to make my Dad’s famous chili, tons of soups, mac ‘n’ cheese, or any larger piece of meat that needs to spend some time on the stove top before going into the oven.

I think Calphalon saucepans, frying pans, etc. are totally the way to go. They are so sturdy and clean well. They’re even dishwasher safe! The particular pan shown above is one of my absolute go-to’s. It’s got a wide base like a saute pan but also depth like a saucepan, the best of both worlds! Perfect for stir fries or anything that requires large amounts of food to be tossed in any kind of sauce.

If you don’t have some already, you may have to even gift yourself with these cookie sheets right now. There’s so much Christmas cookie baking ahead of us!

And while you’re buying those cookie sheets, you may as well invest in some silpats as well. They are the perfect tool to keep your cookies (or any other sort of baked item) from sticking to the pan.

A classic bundt cake pan is a great gift because bundt cakes are sooo fun to make, yet many people don’t have a proper pan in their bakeware arsenal. Make this an even better gift by throwing in your favorite bundt cake recipe and the (non-perishable) ingredients to make it!

I don’t know about you, but I have been really inspired by all of the doughnut recipes floating around the web. I’m so excited that baked doughnuts are now almost as common as fried ones! I love having this doughnut pan on hand for when the mood strikes. (Plus, they bake so quickly it’s almost instant gratification!)

These culinary rings will be the new best friend of whatever food-loving, aspiring home chef you get them for. They are super fun to use when plating food, but can also be repurposed as biscuit and dough cutters, cookie cutters, etc. I used the 2 1/2″ size to shape the dough for my Baked Whiskey-Soaked Apple Fritters.

Food

I am so, so grateful that my chef friend introduced me to this vanilla bean paste. It’s basically a thick vanilla extract, more of a gel-like texture, that has real flecks of vanilla bean seeds. It can be used as a one-to-one substitute for regular vanilla extract in any recipe, and it is TOTALLY worth it. I find it gives a much richer vanilla flavor to whatever you’re making. It’s a big bottle, but it doesn’t spoil very quickly as long as you keep it in a cool, dry place. I always split the bottle with one of my baker friends!

A honey tasting set is a great idea for culinary-minded friends. Honey is so versatile and can be used for breakfast, tea, cocktails, cheese plates, dessert, you name it! It’s fun to try different types of honey side by side because you can really pick up on what sets them apart.

Truffle oil is one of those things that you want to receive as a gift because it’s just a little too extravagant to put in your grocery cart on your weekly shopping trip. A little bit goes a long way so it will last for a while!

We eat salads for dinner A LOT and so we are never without this delicious balsamic glaze from Trader Joe’s. I love that it’s creamier and sweeter than your average balsamic vinegar, and it truly adds another dimension to your salads.

This starter spice kit is the perfect gift for a teenager just starting to live on their own or that friend that keeps telling you how much they want to start cooking more. Now there won’t be any excuses!

Cookbooks

I ordered The Year of Cozy by Adrianna Adarme of A Cozy Kitchen as soon as I heard about it. I just LOVE the concept of figuring out ways to incorporate “cozy” into your every day life. Recipes, art projects, and so much more. Such a great gift idea!

I’ve had the pleasure of corresponding with Samantha Seneviratne of the blog Love, Cake a few times so of course I had to get her cookbook, The New Sugar & Spice as soon as it came out. Such a great look into how different spices can liven up any sort of baked dessert!

When I lived in Yountville, I was so lucky to be within walking distance of this iconic bakery, and it wasn’t a surprise to see Thomas Keller working away in the kitchen on any given day. Needless to say, I became attached to quite a few of the baked goods so of course I had to be sure to get a copy of the Bouchon Bakery cookbook before I moved away.


I love that this cookbook (written by The Beekman Brothers who run a farm in upstate New York) is separated by season, and all of the recipes are completely approachable. A while back I set out to try all of the recipes featured. Although I haven’t quite gotten there yet, I’ve made a significant dent and hope to complete “cooking the book” soon!