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Holiday Gift Ideas Any Home Cook Would Appreciate

It can be tricky buying gifts for an enthusiastic "chef." Being enthusiastic home cooks ourselves, we tend to have the stuff we like and like the stuff we have, and we are skeptical about adding gadgets that might require some of our precious kitchen real estate. That said, here are some gifts that we would love to unwrap this holiday season.
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  1. All cooks love snacks. They need them to keep going on a long afternoon of cooking or as a quick appetizer for impromptu guests. Whip up a quick batch of tasty nuts and put them in a simple clear glass jar topped with a ribbon.

  2. Spice it up! A jar of some cool spice blend from your recent travels abroad or your fantastic local spice shop can introduce cooks to new exciting flavors. Better yet whip up your own blend and add a recipe card for what to use it with. This zaatar blend is delicious and unusual and makes everything from scrambled eggs to fresh fish into a whole new food adventure. Pretty soon they'll be sprinkling it on everything!

  3. Pot holders. They double as trivets, take up almost no space, and if you or some skilled kid you're related to weave them on a loom, we're even more grateful.

  4. Finishing salts are a fun, small splurge. You can spring for a treat like truffle salt even if a whole fresh truffle is out of reach.

  5. A salt pig. These are quirky and fun and come in many colors and sizes. Some are shaped like pigs, others are simple ceramic bowls or boxes with lid. Sometimes you don't know what you're missing until you have one of these -- they make seasoning so handy! The most important element of a salt pig is that it has an unfinished inside so the ceramic or wood can help absorb moisture and keep salt pinchable. They are great conversation pieces and take up little space on the counter.

  6. Bandannas, to feel all restaurant-cheflike when we keep our hair back while cooking, or a good assortment of 6 to 8 to use as dinner napkins. There are beautiful vintage bandannas out there, but any decent sports- or outdoor-equipment shop should carry a good assortment of colors and patterns. Bundle them up as a bouquet and you're good to go.

  7. Cheese knives are an easy item to splurge on and make a statement. They are also an item most people don't buy for themselves. Look for hand-carved handles or keepsakes from museum shops and craft fairs. There's no need to worry about matching with a cook's other kitchenware so statement pieces are giftable here.

  8. Keep your eyes open. Is your best friend a salad lover who doesn't own a dinner-party-size bowl? Buy her a beautiful ceramic or wooden bowl you know she'll use. Does your mom always apologize for her tablecloth? Consider a new one complete with coordinating napkins. Keep an eye out as you cook and dine with friends and choose something you know they need. It will show you are paying attention.

  9. Consider a cutting board upgrade -- all cooks covet beautiful wooden cutting boards but rarely buy them for themselves. Look for a single piece of hardwood cross-grain cut and hand-oiled or a set of bamboo beauties for everyday use.

  10. Vintage cookbooks. Have a good laugh over Jell-O molds from the past or find inspiration from a long-lost recipe. Vintage cookbooks tell us so much about food trends, traditions, and communities. They are instant conversation pieces.

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