Holiday gifts ideas for food lovers and those who love to cook

 
 

Selecting holiday gifts seems to get more difficult every year and this year's no exception. When it comes to cooking, keeping a gift under $50 is a trick even Santa's elves may find difficult. Here are three at-or-under-$50 gifts that may do the trick for you.

Got a cook who loves to immerse themselves in cookbooks? Consider Dorie Greenspan's newest: Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook ($35). Between 1997 and 2017 Greenspan won not just one, but five James Beard Awards. Last year I recommended "Dorie's Cookies" which some people loved and others found some recipes a touch fussy, but nearly always good.

Since Greenspan's a chef and food writer what she considers a pantry staple, such as squash blossoms or kecap manis -- sweet soy sauce, might not be items in other people's pantries.

Greenspan's cookbook is for cooks who've been cooking for a while and would love to see unique takes on the -- well -- every day. Look at her Grilled Dry-Rubbed Rib Eye Steaks where she uses brown sugar, chile powder, paprika, Old Bay seasoning, garlic and onion powders, five-spice powder, black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, and red pepper flakes as a rub for a sensational spin on the commonplace. I have all those seasonings in my pantry.

Greenspan's recipe for Sweet Chili Chicken Thighs is, as she puts it: "weeknight easy." Her Pasta with Cabbage, Winter Squash and Walnuts started as a last-minute, throw-together that, as pictured, looks extraordinary.

A delicious blend of good-for-you Brussels sprouts with bacon dressing.
A delicious blend of good-for-you Brussels sprouts with bacon dressing. - Photography © 2018 by Ellen Silverman
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Maple-Syrup-and-Mustard Brussels sprouts put a different-but-delicious spin on those now-mainstream miniature cabbages. The photography is stunningly beautiful, and as always with Greenspan, she writes instructions as if she's right there with you.

Got a friend or relative who can't get enough heat from bottled hot sauces? Check out Ghost Scream's (ghostscream.com) new line that uses ghost peppers (one of the hottest on the planet) to produce some most-excellent hot sauces. Ghost Scream is owned and operated by a chef, Matthew Sisson and his wife, Deandra. As Sisson shares on his website: "Our love for intense flavor and spice brought these sauces to life."

I love hot sauce heat, but the potential for too much heat makes me nervous so, using caution, I used a drop on a saltine. Yes, this sauce generates heat, but not as much as it's ghost pepper origins led me to believe. I've used it to kick the heat up on both homemade chili and scratch-made soups.

Ghost Scream's Chili Garlic Paste works well with any Asian dish that needs heat, and its Chili Garlic Jam delivers a sweet heat on such things as cream cheese spread on crackers. Ghost Scream's 3 Pack Kit ($30) offers all three for your holiday heat-seekers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Finally, over the years I've destroyed more than my share of wine corks. I've found that if I don't precisely center the corkscrew I can ruin the cork and when I finally push the cork into the bottle to get it out, I must filter the wine to get rid of the cork pieces.

Rabbit's Axis Lever Corkscrew (black-$75, Navy blue and burgundy-$50 / rabbitwine.com), from the makers of The Original Rabbit Corkscrew ($50), solved that potential problem for me. Once I figured out how Rabbit's corkscrew works, I lifted my first cork swiftly and efficiently out of the bottle, and the Axis comes with a nifty foil cutter that made it easy to get to the cork, too.

Not possible to share some hot sauce or a corkscrew with you, but I can share a recipe from Greenspan's book so you can try before you buy.

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