Lauren’s Foodie Gift Guide Part 2…For the Adventurous home cooks

by Lauren Townsend for The Aha! Connection

Foodie Gift Guide Part 2…Adventurous home cooks. I love to cook. It’s hard to believe, but we really don’t go out to eat very often. I really don’t need any new bulky appliances that are going to take up a bunch of room and get dragged out once a decade, (well there is one exception on this list) I want fun things that are fun-ctional or teach me something new, or both.

  1. First things first, you need a microplane. Before they used it to shave the dead skin off your heels at the nail place, it was meant to finely shave and zest stuff in your kitchen. A microplane is number one for paper thin zest for baking, sauce and cocktails; chocolate for decorating; butter that is too cold to spread; fresh spices like cinnamon or nutmeg or even cheese.

  1. Lard. You read that right. A long time ago, in a land far, far away (the Highlands) I worked as the chef de cuisine at a restaurant and our paychecks kept bouncing, so the writing was on the wall. When it was time to shut it down, the chef grabbed all the meat she could fit in her car and I grabbed all the duck fat, which I carried around the county from move to move. Cooking in lard all the time is a fast track to the cardiology unit at Northside but using it occasionally for browning meat or rubbing on a rib roast or turkey or frying potatoes in or sautéing vegetables, you get it. It also has a high smoke point.

  1. Here is my one exception to unnecessary appliances, churro maker. I don’t know if this churro maker is good, but I desperately need it to be. I have always loved churros but I am too lazy to make them the authentic way.
  2. A true home chef needs a sous vide machine. Sous vide allows for precious through cooking which can’t be done with any other method. You can’t control the hot spot in your oven to the exact heat of gas flame or grill. It allows for more hands-free cooking and a separation if you have people who have certain tastes or allergies not to mention the easy clean up.

  1. If you love to cook, then you probably have some or a lot of nice pots and pans. Not only does a pot rack show them off, but it keeps them organized, saves cabinet space and I love the way it looks. I don’t know if I could live sanely without it.
  2. Are you putting cold butter on your toast? But-ter why? Some of you may be questioning if it is ok to leave butter out. Here is the abridged answer: Leave SALTED butter in a covered dish or container in a darker part of your kitchen like a cabinet. If it is stored properly away from air and excessive heat, butter can stay good for a week or two. You don’t have to put the whole stick in there. If you are wondering if it’s safe, give it a whiff or taste test. You will know.

  1. Just go to Uncommon Goods. All you need to DIY kits for Sushi, Sourdough, Tamales, Mochi Ice Cream, Italian cheeses, Pho, Tofu, and Hot Sauce. I want them all, like pokemons, but with cooking kits.
  2. Cooking classes to expand the repertoire are a great gift. Head to or even better, check out Vino Venue. Right down the road, Vino Venue offers a variety of cooking experiences for a fun night out, a daytime class or a family friendly experience. Their website has the calendar and descriptions.

  1. Do you have a friend that likes to bake? Hopefully they already have silpat. It’s great for baking pretty much anything on. You don’t need oil to prevent sticking, making it ideal for particularly sticky foods or delicate foods. It can be heated up to 480 degrees so hot sugars will wipe right off once cooled. You can also bake pizzas or basically anything but don’t cut on it.

  1. I’m super confused how or why people eat store-bought salad dressing. it’s packed with chemical emulsifiers, lots of sugars and who knows what else. My dad bought me one of these when I was in college and I have never looked back. Nowadays, I know enough about emulsifiers an ingredient amount to whip up the amount of dressing I need in a bowl on the fly, but a handy little bottle like this is how I learned to put together flavors. It’s better for you and it tastes better. You’re welcome.