Gift Ideas for the Home Cook

Gift Ideas for the Home Cook

Not sure what you want for Christmas or what to get your favorite home cook? Here are some things I love to cook with that I personally recommend. (Disclosure: If you click on a link and purchase something, we get a small commission but we never recommend anything we don’t own and love ourselves.)




Glass of wine
Nothing goes better with cooking than a glass of wine and music.

Music? What does music have to do with cooking? For me, it’s everything. Along with a glass of wine, it helps me get into a cooking groove and keeps me cheerful even when the soufflé falls or the tedious work of breading and frying an endless amount of chicken cutlets makes my back ache.

Sadly, fewer people give music as gifts ever since music went digital. And that’s a shame because it’s easy to send a digital music album to someone and easy for them to receive it, and exchange it if they’d prefer something else. All you need is their email address.


Pros and Cons of iTunes vs. Amazon

If you buy the album on iTunes, you’ll be able to decide when it’s delivered via email to your loved one, so you could have it arrive on Christmas Day. The recipient does not need to have an iTunes account but they’ll need an Apple ID (which is free) in order to accept the gift or exchange it. Here’s more information on using iTunes for this.

With Amazon, you can’t schedule the email delivery of the album. It’s sent out immediately, so try to do it around the time you want it to arrive. This is great if you’re at a Christmas party and someone gives you a gift and you have nothing for them. Simply take out your phone and buy and send it to them immediately. The recipient does not need to have an Amazon account to download the gift. Here’s more information on using Amazon for this.


Here are three albums I recommend for holiday cooking:

1.) Macy Gray: Ruby

I was not familiar with Macy Gray’s music until I purchased this album a few weeks ago. It’s brand new, having been released in September, 2018. The best way to describe this album is upbeat, old-school, funk and soul. It reminds me of a cross between Sly and the Family Stone and Mavis Staples. This is the track that I heard on a college radio station that led me to purchase the whole album. And I’m glad I did.

2.) Kenny Hogan: Out There

This is a new one from Boston-based musician Kenny Hogan. It is also a little old-school, with some soul, funk and rock beats. In some songs you’ll hear a psychedelic groove that will take you “out there”: perfect for when you’re cooking with wine (or have the munchies). Hogan wrote all the music and plays nearly all of the instruments on each heartfelt track.

3.) John Coltrane: My Favorite Things

This is old school because it was released in 1961, but it sounds just as new and fresh as ever. The title song is often played around the holidays. Take a listen and see if it gets you in the holiday mood.




The Art of Eating Well, by Pellegrino Artusi (1820-1911)

In Italy, this book is so popular it’s often referred to as simply, “The Artusi.” It is the bible of Italian cooking and was self-published by the prosperous Florentine silk merchant Pellegrino Artusi in 1891. As he travelled selling his wares, he collected these tried and true recipes from home cooks all over Italy. It wasn’t translated into English until 1996. I have nearly 100 cookbooks but I refer to this one more than any other.



Consider setting up a coffee bar with these three items.

1.) French Press (The best way to make good coffee)

There are three things I use to make the best coffee every morning. This is the most important. I’ve tried drip coffee makers and percolators but nothing makes better coffee than a french press. And nothing is easier and quicker to use (not even Keurig coffee makers). You simply add your coffee to the bottom of the press, pour in hot water, and push the press down. The second most important thing I use to make good coffee is a:

2.) Coffee Grinder

I find that grinding coffee beans right before you use them makes a big difference. This electric grinder is small and does the job quickly and efficiently. Simply pour in the beans, put the lid back on,  and grind, baby, grind. The last thing I use to make coffee each morning is this:

3.) Electric Kettle

This isn’t absolutely necessary to making good coffee but it is more convenient (and safer) than using a stove top kettle to heat water. And that’s because it automatically shuts off when the water is hot. Now, you can do something else, leave the kitchen and not have to worry about being called back by the siren of an annoying tea kettle whistle. It makes life just a little bit more civilized. And I take this convenience one step further by setting up a coffee bar in the Rootsliving kitchen with the french press, grinder, and electric kettle all in one place, next to the beans.



Pasta Pot With Colander and Steamer

I use this anytime I make pasta. I love it because it has a built-in colander which allows me to wait until the pasta water cools before dumping it down the drain. This protects my fireclay sink and also protects me from burning water. It’s also more efficient than using a slotted spoon or pasta server to fish out the pasta from the pot.  Instead, when the pasta is done I lift out the colander insert and dump the pasta in a bowl. This also allows me to cook pasta in batches, when I have a huge crowd to feed. And the steamer insert allows me to make pasta primavera in one step, using one pot.

8-inch Frying Pan

I use this frying pan most every day. I find it to be the perfect size for frying a couple of eggs in the morning or sautéing some onions and peppers. It’s a hefty pan that’s made well and doesn’t have any screws that can make the handle fall off. It doesn’t take up much room and it’s easy to clean.



Retro-Style, Sturdy Toaster

OK. At $149, this is one expensive toaster. But I believe it will last longer than me. I bought this after using a cheap toaster that I had to push the toast down several times before it would catch. I no longer have that daily aggravation and I’m confident I’ll never have to buy another toaster again. And I get to marvel at the Italian design and beauty of the chrome that is as inviting and nostalgic as a mint-condition 1957 Chevy Bel Air. I have the cream colored one, but it also comes in several other colors including red, pink, chrome, and pastel blue.

Nora Fleming Elf

Tricia loves everything Nora Fleming. Nora Fleming makes platters with charms that can easily be changed for every occasion, including most holidays. This elf one, and the snowman are popular this time of year. And any of the charms can be used with any of the platters, including the candy dish/napkin holder which we have and use.

Remember, it’s better to give than it is to receive.