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Some of the Best Christmas Gifts can be Kitchen Gadgets

Some people wrap up their holiday shopping on Black Friday. Others have been gathering the perfect gifts throughout the year. Then there are those of us who are staring at the calendar wondering when we are going to find the time to complete our shopping list. Or start on it. Or make a list.

If you fall into one of the latter categories you are in luck! Everyone has to eat, right

Instead of another gift card how about a useful kitchen gift? Whether it is for your brother, best friend or a grab bag, the following ideas are certain to be well used. I asked my nutrition colleagues what is indispensable in their kitchen right now.

Rice/Vegetable steamer: A steamer is one of the easiest ways to cook; you toss in your ingredients and push a button. You can steam an entire meal at one time, using heat and moisture to cook which retains most of the food's nutrition and texture. This is a useful appliance for singles or couples who don’t want to dirty a lot of dishes to cook a meal. Transparent steamers are a great choice for families with small children as there are no hot burners on or open flame and kids will like to watch the colorful vegetables cook inside.

Cast Iron Skillet: Inexpensive, endlessly practical and lasts forever. True there are some guidelines to follow when cooking with and cleaning your cast iron but it is built to last and very difficult to completely ruin. Most new pans even come pre-seasoned, which means that the hard part is already done for you. The benefit of cast iron is it gets hot and stays hot so is best for cooking foods that need a consistently high temperature: searing meat, stir fry, roasted vegetables and the best cornbread with a crunchy golden crust.

Chef’s knife: Used to chop, slice, and dice a good chef’s knife will replace many of the one purpose gadgets that clutter your kitchen drawers (banana slicer anyone?). Select one that feels comfortable in your hand in both size and weight.

Cutting boards: Along with a good knife, a selection of cutting boards helps to keep meat and other foods separate during preparation to prevent cross-contamination. Plastic or wood are better options are kinder to your knives than glass. Most plastic boards can be sanitized in the dishwasher, wood requires a bit more TLC but are attractive and the classic choice for many chefs.

Mixing bowls: I suggest the stainless steel kind with lids. We have many bowls in our cupboards but I always reach for the same stainless bowl with a non-slip bottom. Mixing something up ahead of time? Pop on the lid and no fighting with the plastic wrap.

Pyrex/glass storage containers: For the newbie or the family cook, glass or Pyrex storage containers can be used in to make, bake and take! Meal planning and make-ahead cooking is simpler and more environmentally friendly with containers that can be used in the freezer, oven, and microwave.

Microplane zester: This is a classic that not enough people own. We use it on everything from cheese to spices to chocolate to citrus; it's the best way to zest. And ‘tis the season for fresh cinnamon and nutmeg on your favorite warm beverage.

Spritzer: My husband and I both use spritzers for cooking. He likes it to season grilled meat during the cooking process with Worcestershire sauce, and I like to use it for olive oil so I don’t get too heavy handed on the pour.

Kitchen scissors: Nearly as useful as the chef’s knife, a handy pair in the kitchen can be used for everything from opening packages, to snip herbs or clean chicken. Look for a pair that comes apart for easy cleaning. The pair I am giving my mom for Christmas has a magnetic case that hangs right on the fridge.

Thermometer: Thermometers really are essential in the kitchen. No more guessing; use a thermometer! A digital instant-read option is convenient, and one with temperature guides included are great for the less experienced cook. For someone who loves to bake an oven thermometer will help to more accurately brown the rolls, and a candy thermometer helps make confections turn out just right.

Wooden spoons: A classic gift -- beautiful in their simplicity and functionality. From stirring size to serving size these will look beautiful tied in ribbon atop any gift or peeking out from the stocking.

CHI Health Food and Nutrition Services Team
CHI Health Food and Nutrition Services Team

These blogs are written by members of the CHI Health Nutrition Services team.

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