It’s fall, which means it’s time to:
- Think about your fantasy football lineups
- Get over the residual dread this time of year brings about because you were conditioned to associate cooler weather and changing foliage with going back to school (gross)
- Put together your holiday gift list (SANTA!)
Let’s take these in order. I don’t have much advice to offer when it comes to fantasy lineups. I like my sports how I like my prime beef: 100% genuine. Check in with your most pro-football, pro-gambling friend, take him or her out for wings and a beer, and pick his or her brain. I’m also not going to be much help with the back-to-schoolies (the willies you get when contemplating a shift from summer fun to constant homework, high school social dynamics, and high-stakes performance). I hate(d) the end of summer. I hate(d) the beginning of school. I still get twitchy when Target puts out the school supplies, and the first late-summer-60-degree day rolls around. You know, maybe I should talk to someone about this. Or, maybe I’ll just continue to bury it down every fall for the rest of my life by thinking about something else—like skipping fall entirely and getting my holiday wish list in order. Hey, finally something I can speak on!
Alright, now that I’ve staved off an existential break, let’s get down to business. I always like to give my Secret Santa some inspiration so as to not leave a potentially clueless gift-giver up to their own devices. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, it’s the thought that counts. But some folks are so inept (read: thoughtless) when it comes to gifts that I’d rather just make a list. That way, no one is hassled, disappointed, or stressed. As an adult who really likes to eat, I’ve noticed that many of my ideas now involve bolstering my kitchen. So, whether you’re looking for things you want jolly old St. Nick to bring you, or for ideas to get the food-and-drink-lover in your life, here are 11 items from Amazon you should definitely consider:
I have a 16-month old son who is a ball of pure activity. I need caffeine. I prefer cold beverages, and I don’t like anything too acidic. Thank you, coffee innovators, for giving me cold brew—a tasty, strong, low-acidic, cold coffee. My preference leans toward this OXO model. I get about 20 ounces of concentrate, good for ten 8-10 ounce beverages per brew. If your coffee-drinker likes his or her drink hot, no problem. Because you’re dealing with concentrate, you add water, milk and/or ice to make your drink, so just add hot water for a hot cup o’ joe. Oh, and one more thing: You can cold brew tea too! Buy it here.
See above for why this wonderful elixir is worth your while. Unfortunately, it’s still tough to find cold brew coffee grounds at the store. You really want to get grounds made for cold brew to ensure the best taste and texture. Why? Grinding your own at the store or even at Starbuck’s might yield grounds not suitable or coarse enough, and leave you with too much sediment in your cup (pass). Try this stuff from Tiny Footprint and feel good about the taste, the price, and the environment! Buy them here.
Another coffee-related item, this great device will turn the recipient into a full-blown barista (Not really, but let’s be real: a lot of folks go with a latte when hittin’ up the Starbies, so this is a good bet). I like this one from aerolatte. Just heat up your milk in the microwave, dip this baby in, fire it up for 30 seconds, and you have a froth fit for your mother-in-law’s skim latte. Buy it here.
While cold brew and sun tea are great, they take a long time to make. When you find yourself in a thirst-induced jam leaving you in dire need of a tasty, zero calorie, non-carbonated refreshment, a “long time” will not do. That’s when an instant iced tea maker, like this one from Mr. Coffee (don’t let the name fool you), will take you from parched to pleased in no time at all. Buy it here.
I’m not a trendster, I promise. I’m just a guy who likes good food, easy prep, and simple clean up. That’s why the cast iron is great. I use this Lodge 12-incher. From fish, to beef, to pork, to chicken, to sausage, to vegetables (okay, we get it), the cast iron cooks it. Light up the stove. The cast iron can cook there. Pre-heat the oven. The cast iron can cook there. Start the grill. The cast iron can cook there. Build a campfire (OKAY, WE GET IT!). The cast iron can cook there. Cast iron skillets last forever, give your food a nice sear, and wipe down easily (as long as it’s seasoned) once you’re done cooking. Oh, and they’re cheap! Buy it here.
To cook meat well, I rely on tongs. Not a spatula. Not a fork (bush league). Tongs. Tongs provide precision and maneuverability. A quality kitchen needs them. If you have one pair, you could use another. I have three, and they’re all in frequent use. Try these OXO cooking tongs for your stainless steel or cast iron cookware. They also have plastic tipped models for your non-stick pans. I like these because they are sturdy, and they have a locking mechanism. Buy them here.
Look, I know what you’re thinking: Who wants tupperware?! Hear me out. Tupperware can be an efficient cook’s best friend. It’s obviously great for storage. This is key when you make enough for leftovers. Make a box of pasta, five cups of rice, or chili and you need some quality tupperware to keep it fresh for as long as possible. This set from OXO gets the job done, and then some. Plus, you can use some of this stuff for bowls or dishes when you forget to run the dishwasher (again?!). Buy it here.
Fresh-cracked pepper and sea salt are just better. The taste is fresher and more robust. Get a set of automatic mills, like these from Cuisinart, and you’ll be livin’ large and in charge. As a cook, I enjoy being able to wield these mills with one hand while I flip and turn with the other. Plus, guests love the novelty of using an at-home seasoning power tool! Most impressive. Buy them here.
Anyone who has ever cooked knows that knives are important. The problem with knives is that they dull. Dull knives are brutally frustrating to work with, can leave your food lacking, and your fingers injured (hopefully not!). This is why it’s important to keep your knives honed and sharpened. I recommend this one from Chef’s Choice because it can sharpen and hone (a key distinction) European, Asian, and serrated blades at a reasonable price. Buy it here.
Huh? What’s that? A butter bell is how the French (allegedly) use and store butter. In order to spread butter on bread, or appropriately get some on your knife, you need it to be soft. Soft butter, left out, turns a less-than-appealing yellow and goes bad. Soft butter stored in the refrigerator, while fresh, firms up again. How can anyone cook or eat under these conditions?! I couldn’t, so after seeing my uncle with a butter bell, I ordered one myself and never looked back. Here’s how it works: You load the bell with soft butter, fill the cup a third of the way with cold water, then invert the bell into the cup. The water creates a seal leaving the butter soft and fresh for up to the 30 days. All you have to do is change out the water every few days (now that you remind me…). This one by Butter Bell is clutch. After all, butter makes everything better! Buy it here.
Let’s be real: Just because I cook doesn’t mean I make everything from scratch. That’s true of BBQ sauces and rubs. My wife and I love BBQ. It’s probably her favorite meal, so, naturally, I make it a lot. I’ve found two things to be true: 1) A rub is crucial; and 2) The sauce is personal. For my (call me basic, I don’t care) taste, I go with Famous Dave’s Rib Rub. Put it on anything, especially pork, before you cook it, and your name should be Bon Jovi ‘cause you’re halfway there (to good BBQ). Then, have Grandma Foster’s BBQ sauce on hand to slather on your ribs or chops and you’ll have some restaurant quality grub sure to impress.
Hopefully, I’ve given you some solid ammo for your own list or your holiday shopping responsibilities. I enjoy everything on this list, and think you (or your recipient) will too. Now go forth, visit Amazon, and get some shopping done.
Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.