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Kitchen gifts and holiday giving

Published: Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 11:35 a.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 12:02 p.m. CST

Have you considered giving kitchenware this holiday season — either to yourself or to someone who is setting up a home? If you have been out shopping in any of your favorite department stores, you’ve probably seen the collection of small appliances on the market. Examples include the cake pop/donut hole baker, mini pie baker, pretzel maker, hot dog roller, pigs in a blanket maker and many more.

Unfortunately, most of these appliances prepare only one food item, and it generally isn’t the healthiest choice. These appliances are unique items for those on your list who have everything, but they may not be considered to be the best use of your money for cooking a variety of foods. These basic tools for cooking may last a lifetime in your kitchen and produce healthier food options as well. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

• Knives — Start with a paring knife for trimming and peeling, a knife with a serrated edge for slicing breads and vegetables such as tomatoes and a chef’s knife for chopping.

• Cutting boards — Search for a set of plastic cutting boards so you can use more than one at a time. Therefore, you are not mixing vegetables and raw meats on the same board. These plastic boards are inexpensive, easy to store and dishwasher safe.

• Pans — Three pans to consider might be a medium (3 quart) sauce pan with a lid for vegetables, rice and sauces; a large skillet (preferably with a lid) for sautéing, stir-frying and browning meats, vegetables and sandwiches; and a large (10 quart) “stock” pot for pastas and soups.

• Measuring cups and spoons — Be sure the set includes 1⁄4 cup, 1⁄3 cup, 1⁄2 cup and 1 cup measures for dry ingredients. Add a clear cup with measuring markers on the side and a spout to measure and pour liquids. Measuring spoon sets should include 1⁄4 teaspoon, 1⁄2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon measures.

• Mixing bowls — A basic set can just be one large and one small bowl.

• Whisks — These work well for sauces, beating eggs and mixing thin liquids.

• Rubber spatulas — For starters, try a small one for cleaning out small containers, such as a can or peanut butter jar, and a large one for stirring and folding batter and for scraping the inside of  bowls.

• Wooden or heat and stain-resistant spoons — These are helpful in that they do not scratch your pans, and they don’t conduct heat so you can leave them in your pot if you desire.

• Can opener — Give a basic hand crank model that can be cleaned after use and stored in the drawer.

• Peeler — Use this in place of a knife to reduce waste and keep more nutrients when peeling potatoes, carrots, apples, kiwi and mangos.

• Gravy separator — Use this to separate the fat drippings from meat juices to make lower fat gravies and broth for soups.

• Instant read thermometer — This is a must for assuring proper and safe temperatures for meat and poultry and when reheating foods.

• Colander/strainer — This tool is essential for draining pasta, rice, vegetables, berries and more.

• Kitchen shears — These are helpful in so many ways — trimming extra fat off meat, snipping herbs and leafy vegetables to name a few.

• Grater or zester — Either one of these utensils are useful in helping to add extra  flavor to your recipes (cheese, chocolate, citrus, garlic and more).

And for those who love to bake, consider:

• 9x13 pan (for cakes, bars, casseroles)

• Baking sheet (for cookies and rolls)

• Loaf pan, pie pan or muffin pan

• Cooling rack

Invest in a good, basic cookbook and you are set for good eating. Happy holiday gift-giving!

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